I love taking pictures. When you see me at any event, I usually have my beloved camera around my neck (to the detriment of many an outfit!). My record so far is over a thousand photos taken during a month-long stay in America 3 years ago. Most of them were the standard photos – group photos of family and friends, me standing in front of a famous landmark, Mom and Dad standing in front of a famous landmark, my sister and I standing….you know what I mean. But some of them are not the standard – a cluster of leaves in the reds and yellows of America’s autumn colours, the pattern of the morning dew on a window, my little cousin’s hand clasped in my grandmother’s.
Most people would have missed these little details or would label them ordinary. But I see the beauty in them – enough beauty to warrant the attention of a photograph and I sometimes wonder why that is so. Then I wondered, “Is this how God sees? Is this how God sees me? How can He compare me to the magnificence of the Grand Canyon, the awe-inspiring sight of the African savannah, the intricate artwork of the coral reefs of the Great Barrier Reef or to the breath-taking sight of the Earth as seen from space? How does He see all of that and still call me beautiful?
During the worst period of my depression, I stacked on 10 kilos. I would come home from work, sit on my bean bag in my room, watch DVD’s and eat junk. Taking care of me was the last thing I wanted to do. It was the look in my sister’s eyes when she saw me on her last trip here that woke me up. It wasn’t a look of disgust or pity but one of fear. She was worried for me because she knew the extra weight would not be healthy (I also suffer from a form of arthritis so the extra bulk is not good for my joints) and she didn’t want that for me. Never in my life has she looked at me in that way and it was the wake-upx call I needed.
I went to the gym and knowing my irritating ability to procrastinate, I hired a personal trainer to get me back into shape. Through sessions of boxing and strength training, most of the weight is now gone and it’s been fun fitting back into some old clothes. But those sessions gave me something more: a new mindset. I love me – all of me. All my lumps and bumps and flaws….all of me. I walk with a new confidence that I’ve never had before. A confidence borne of knowing that I earned this body, I worked for it and I like it. That’s when I realised that to the Lord, it’s not the outside that counts – it is the mind and soul within. If it was just the outside I was aiming for, then I would still be depressed because, well, I don’t have a perfect body. But that’s not what matters to me and it definitely does not matter to Him. It is us, the human race, who are guilty of choosing appearance as the definition of beauty. It is not God’s definition. “You should not use outward aids to make yourselves beautiful, such as the way you fix your hair, or the jewelry you put on, or the dresses you wear. Instead, your beauty should consist of your true inner self, the ageless beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of the greatest value in God’s sight.” – 1 Peter 3:3-4.
I like dressing up. I like all the girly accessories and the make-up and the clothes and the shoes and the perfume but now, I don’t put all of that on to make myself feel beautiful but to reflect the beauty I feel within. The beauty that was there and that God saw even in my bleakest, darkest, ugliest moments.