Perfection

From the Archives: Mirror, Mirror

A post on beauty and vanity as something more than a reason to be pitied or a Bible study topic.

Originally published: 2/24/17




You’re beautiful. (Or handsome – girls aren’t the only ones who struggle with their looks) The problem is, it can be hard for you to see that. You know that one friend of yours is prettier and that other one wears nicer clothes. So, if you’re not up to that standard yet, how could you even consider yourself beautiful?

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. – Proverbs 31:30

We’ve all heard the verse. Every time the topic of beauty comes up, someone reminds us that it isn’t all there is to this life. Of course we know that. So why are we still so concerned with our looks?

I’m writing this for me as much as anybody else because this is something I’ve struggled with for a long time. I envy the girl that hasn’t. Why shouldn’t I do what I can to become prettier? It would make me feel better and I want to look good to the people around me.

Hm. I want to look good to the people around me.

Since when has that been the right reason to do anything? We all know this, too. Don’t change yourself for other people. But we still want to.

If we know all these things, why do we still want so badly to be beautiful (or at least reach the point where we consider ourselves beautiful)? We know it’s deceitful and vain and we know that we shouldn’t be trying to impress other people with our looks. But we still want to.

It all comes down to sin. (Doesn’t everything?)

Vanity is not okay. Vanity is nothing more than pride – it’s caring about what other people think about our looks. In most cases, vanity is also dissatisfaction with the bodies God’s given us. We wish we had bigger eyes, clearer skin, straight hair. Then we would be pretty enough.

I was recently given a prayer journal and told to write in it every day. It’s helping me to grow in my prayer life and, I think, my relationship with God. Which means it’s made me realize some things about myself that I’m not too happy about. One of those is my vanity. I wrote out a prayer asking God to take it from me. I really wanted it to just disappear. Then about a week later (when my pride hadn’t just vanished), I wrote out a different prayer. This was one of confession.

Because vanity is a sin, we can’t just act like it’s only a problem common to teenage girls and it’s not really a big deal or just something we should be pitied for. It is a big deal. We are telling God that we are not satisfied with the bodies he lovingly crafted for us; that we would rather humans think us beautiful than our Maker. And that’s wrong.

At the same time though, vanity doesn’t just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again. We can want it to, but it’s a process. We don’t grow all at once.

So while we’re all growing together, let’s all remember together that we are beautiful in God’s eyes. Cheesy? Maybe. But you know it’s true. And you know that charm is deceitful and you know you don’t have to make yourself look different for other people. Our bodies are for honoring God, not gaining attention.

Mirror mirror, mirror on the wall

Telling those lies, pointing out your flaws

That isn’t who you are, that isn’t who you are.

It might be hard to hear but let me tell you dear

If you could see what I could see I know you would believe

That isn’t who you are, there’s more to who you are!

…I see you dressed in white, every wrong made right.

I see a rose in bloom at the sight of you, oh so priceless!

Irreplaceable, unmistakable, incomparable,

Darling it’s beautiful. I see it all in you

Oh so priceless!

– “Priceless” For King and Country

(and no spoilers – I haven’t seen the movie yet 🙂 )

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

See you later, beautiful.

Kira

How does vanity get in the way of your life? What can you replace it with?

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From the Archives: “What Does Practice Make?”

Life is still crazy, but please enjoy this post from my previous blog.

Originally published: 1/27/17


“What does practice make?”

“Perfect!”

“No. What does practice make?”

Every season of coaching our middle school soccer teams, Daddy would ask the same question in the middle of warmup touches. Confused silence always followed after the initial answer was rejected. Every single one of us girls had been told our whole lives that “practice makes perfect.” So what was Coach/Daddy talking about?

After a minute, if no one offered any new answers, he provided the correct one for us.

“Permanent. Practice makes permanent.”

And then he proceeded to explain.

“It doesn’t matter how much you practice something if you’re practicing it wrong. Whatever you do during practice is what’s going to become permanent in your head. And then that’s what you’ll do during the game.”

After the first couple times, my sister and I would exchange knowing smiles as the chorus of wrong answers were breathlessly given between touches, followed by the same explanation.

After a while, I realized that this sentiment doesn’t just apply to soccer. Rarely anything does unless it’s “shoot for the posts” or “keep the offender outside.”

Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. (1 John 3:4)

The practice of these people is certainly not leading to perfection! A few verses later, John practically tells us right out not to believe the old adage about practice making perfect.

Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. (1 John 3:7-8a)

There’s another old saying that almost everyone knows: you are what you eat. I’d like to think this is similar. You are what you do.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? . . . So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:14,17-18)

Our works are what show our faith and the works we do regularly (habits) are made by practice. I can’t help but think of the line Daddy always used to end his mini lecture.

“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.”

Kira

What do you practice on a regular basis? Is there some way that you should change your “training”?

From the Archives: Mask

I wrote this post about six months after I was finally able to open up to people in order to become closer to them and to grow myself. I’m still a firm believer in breaking the mask.

Originally published: 12/9/16


Are we happy plastic people?

Under shiny plastic steeples?

With walls around our weakness?

And smiles that hide our pain…

I’ve worn a smile that hides my pain more than I care to admit. And the walls around my weakness? Yep, been there. The mask of plastic? Worn it.

Casting Crowns’ Stained Glass Masquerade does quite a good job of capturing just what it is to hide your true self behind a mask.

And I don’t mean that stuff about who you really are in a Disney way. I mean it in a Christian way. Even though I had the head knowledge that I could exchange man’s judgement for God’s, I didn’t believe it until this past summer.

“Yeah, okay, I’m being who God wants me to be. I don’t worry about what other people think about me because I don’t have to.”

Right. That’s what I told people. “It’s all under control.”

But that’s part of the mask. It’s not all under control. At any given point in time, something’s not going to be perfect, but why does anyone else need to know that? I just kept it inside. As I smiled and said I was doing splendidly, my inside voice whisper-screamed, “No! I’m not okay! I can’t do this any more!”

That’s one I thought over and over again. “I can’t do this any more!” Meaning school, friends, church, family. It’s exhausting to be acting constantly. But guess who I told? No one. Because what if they judged me? What if they had it all together and I would just look bad if I told them I didn’t?

It turns out, no one has it all together. And it also turns out that a lot of other people don’t want to share their problems either. That’s what I learned this summer. Written like that, it looks pretty depressing. But when you add the third thing I learned, it sounds a little more comforting.

Everything is better when you share your life with other people.

They can pray for you, they can hold you accountable, they can comfort you. The people around you are struggling too. And they want to help.

I refused to realize that completely until this summer. When I had to, I would give some small struggle that wasn’t really the whole picture. I thought that would fool people. It didn’t. When I finally opened up this summer, or, rather, took off the mask, I found out that you can’t actually hide yourself from the people who love you and that it’s not worth it to try.

I don’t have some huge climax to this story, but I will tell you that it’s made my life so much better to let other people see that I’m only human. I feel free – I’m not locked behind an image that I wanted the world to see. Now I can actually care what God thinks. And people still love me.

But if the invitation’s open

to every heart that has been broken,

maybe then we close the curtain

on our stained glass masquerade.

Kira

Is there anyone you can open up to? Do you find it easier to bear your burdens when others know them?

Setting the Example in Self-Image

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Countless articles promote the idea that you are beautiful just the way you are. “Be satisfied with the body God gave you.” “Love yourself.” “It’s what’s on the inside that counts.”

There are studies of the psychological benefits of being happy with yourself, statistics about how many people aren’t, and expositions on how to be content. But I believe they all miss a very important point: the effect your self-image has on other people.

A few days ago, my four year old sister was playing in my room and randomly started doing all the stretches and exercises she knew. I smiled at her pushups and the way she flicked her hair out of her face with a serious expression. But my smile disappeared when she told me that she was doing it so that she could have a “little tummy.”

This girl doesn’t have an ounce of fat on her body, but she decided that she needed to exercise so that she could look better. That her tummy wasn’t little enough. What on earth possessed her to think that?

There are, of course, the TV shows, toys, and ads to point to. She was born into a world that teaches her to look a certain way – to get there however she can.

But what about the people around her?

I would like to propose the idea that when you show contempt for your body and appearance, it has a real effect on those around you. How many times has my sister seen me look in the mirror and say it’ll have to do for the day? It’s obviously stuck with her.

The way we look at ourselves says a lot about who we are and other people pick up on that. When a girl that you think is especially pretty complains about the way she looks, your heart falls a bit. If she isn’t good enough, how could you ever be?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build one another up.” It’s not encouraging to lead someone into discontent with how they look.

I’m especially speaking to those of us with younger siblings. Part of our job is to set the example for them in godliness. They do follow us, whether we realize it or not. They look up to us and want to be like us, and we must turn that to their benefit. It pained me to hear my sister talking about why she wanted to exercise. I don’t want her to think that way about herself. But that way of thinking is a direct reflection of the people she is around, including me.

How do you want your friends, siblings, peers to view themselves? Set an example in that, not in dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Encourage them and build them up by having a healthy view of yourself. They’ll catch on.

Kira

How do you lead people to see themselves in a godly way? What’s the hardest part about it?

From the Archives: Conceal, Don’t Feel

The following post consistently held its position as one of my top five most popular posts ever since I originally published it. It was the first time I was this open and honest on my blog. Now presenting Conceal, Don’t Feel.

Originally published: 9/30/14


If you have ever heard the song from Frozen called “For the First Time in Forever” you might remember Elsa’s words in the moments before she is to be crowned Queen of Arendelle.

Don’t let them in

Don’t let them see

Be the good girl

You always have to be

Conceal

Don’t feel

Put on a show…

After I watched that movie for the first time, I honestly sang those words to myself over and over again – whenever something was wrong. I figured nobody wanted to hear my problems and I didn’t want to sound like I was complaining or end up boring people to death. But most of all, I didn’t want anyone to think I had any difficulties with life at all.

I recently went to a middle school retreat where the first Bible talk was exactly what I needed to hear. The theme that night was “Life as a Christian is hard.” The speaker first made this fact very clear, then went on to say that we often want our lives to look perfect to people outside of our immediate family or we want to make Christianity look appealing to nonbelievers and so we hide our problems. I realized this is me. Next, the pastor told us that it’s okay to admit we have problems and to talk about them with someone you trust. He repeated this note and assured us that it was in fact a good thing to do. That’s why God gave us friends. To share burdens – to be there for each other.

This hit me. Hard.

I had been hiding my problems for so long, trying to look good and be perfect to almost everyone I knew. It was wearing me down. I was on edge. I kept telling my sister that I had no one to talk to, when, really, I could have talked to her or plenty of other people. I was hiding it. Concealing. Not feeling. I made an actual effort to force my negative emotions down inside of me until they couldn’t show through any more to anyone outside my family.

Last November, my Grandpa died. It wasn’t easy on anyone. He died only a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving, without any of us knowing whether or not he was a Christian. For months, I cried and scolded myself for this. I had had the perfect opportunity to testify for Jesus a few months before he died. And I hadn’t. I didn’t do it because I was scared. I didn’t want to be laughed at. I wanted to look perfect in a human’s eyes. So I continued to lose sleep over this until August. November to August I worried and prayed for him to be in heaven, but I was never sure he was. I never had any peace about it.

But at camp, in August, there was someone to talk to. I told her everything, tears pouring from my eyes. I hadn’t spoken about my Grandpa’s death to anyone since November. I had tried to avoid the subject entirely and got upset with my siblings when they talked about it. But, now, I was able to dump it all out. I drained those tears. I felt so much better. The lady I talked to pointed me to John 3:16, which may seem like a familiar verse and not really comforting, but it was.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Next, she told me to replace some of the words with my own name. Now it read:

For God so loved Kira that He gave His only begotten Son, that if Kira believes in Him she should not perish but have everlasting life.

That changed it a lot for me. It gave this often used verse a new meaning and it comforted me. Why? Because if God loved me enough to send His only Son to die for me, then He must have loved my Grandpa enough to die for him, too. And while I don’t know where my Grandpa is right now, I know that God gave him a choice too. God used who He wanted to use in my Grandpa’s life. And even if I didn’t outright say it, I hope that I lived for Jesus enough to make a difference for my Grandpa. I hope that he saw Christ through my actions – even if I wasn’t always perfect.

All that to say, after I talked about my Grandpa’s death for the first time in almost nine months, I felt much better. It was so much easier after I told someone what I was feeling. Now I feel much more at peace about it. It was doing me no good to try to “Conceal, Don’t feel.” It was only hurting me.

Now that I know that, hopefully it won’t be so hard to show people that I live a broken life in a broken world, just like everybody else. Hopefully it won’t be so hard to admit that I’m a sinner and that things hurt. It’s not easy to be a Christian. But sharing makes it easier.

Kira

When Failure Knocks You Down

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What does the word “failure” mean to you? A big red “F” on a paper. Losing an important game. Letting your friend down. I bet you’ve already failed today. I bet you overslept, or snapped at someone, or didn’t meet a goal.

Maybe you failed to eat that healthy breakfast you had planned or forgot to water the garden before you left. Or maybe it was something bigger, like not getting a job you wanted or having yet another project proposal rejected with a polite “thank you, but no thank you.”

There are as many ways to fail as there are people to fail. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some of them haunt you for weeks, even years, and some are forgotten in a few moments. Either way, failure is an unpleasant feeling. No one enjoys messing up, whether on a large scale or small. No one wants to be unsuccessful in their goals. It’s no fun, and something we’d all rather be rid of. For good.

But what if we never failed at anything? Where would you be right now if you had got that job or won that race or kept your GPA perfect? How would your life be different? Would you know the same people, live in the same town, enjoy the same things?

Probably not. You wouldn’t even be the same person you are now if not for failure.

Failure forces us to try something else, something new. It’s God’s way of saying, “nope, try again.” And is that really such a bad thing?

Everyone tells you that you learn more from failure than from success and they’re right. Think about it – when you exercise, you do things to muscle failure. Until you can’t do it any more. And then you’re stronger the next time and you can push farther before you fail again. If you didn’t go all the way to muscle failure, you wouldn’t improve as quickly. You’d stay at the same level.

More significantly, without failure, we wouldn’t need Jesus. Let that sink in. If we never messed up, we wouldn’t need a Savior.

When I think about living without Jesus, it makes me sad. He has made my life a thousand and one times better than it was before. But if I had never failed at anything, I wouldn’t need Him to do that. Yet, I still think that life wouldn’t be as good as the one I’ve got now.

Failing doesn’t mean the end of the road. It means pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep walking. Maybe God doesn’t want you to have whatever you were trying to get. Or maybe it means He wants you to try a little harder, or He wants to build up your character some more before you get there.

Let’s stop thinking about failure in a negative way. When we don’t succeed, we’re not put back at square one. No, we’ve gained knowledge and wisdom that helps us try something else. And maybe we’ll fail at that, too, but what will we do? We’ll get up, dust ourselves off, and keep walking.

Kira