For the longest time, I perceived humility and unimportance as one and the same; I felt being insignificant and invisible was virtuous. What were actually fears of failing or being humiliated I labelled as sacrificial modesty in a world that craved for attention. This state of mind and self-image became a second skin to me. I grew comfortable in the discomfort of being consumed by emotions and settled into my paranoia. I was drawn by the seduction of inadequacy, of belittling myself, of never feeling enough.
It was in this cavity that I met Jesus and it was here that He introduced me to who I really was- to who He had designed me to be.
Oh, how He changed my world. Within His permissive will, I experienced something that exposed me to everything I ever feared, but through it He simply showed me that I had nothing to fear because I was His.
It started with my skin breaking out in cystic acne that covered my entire face. I couldn’t bear looking at myself or being seen by anyone else. I wanted nothing more than to be invisible and unnoticed in any room I was in, but the wounds and marks on my face only made me feel more seen, more exposed and constantly stared at. Having struggled with body-image throughout my teenage years, I was dreading the depression, the well-meaning comments and questions that I knew were coming.
Every night I wept at His feet and begged Him to heal me, and every morning I rushed to the mirror in absolute belief that I had been healed, and broke down when I realised the miracle I desired hadn’t happened, and that it had only worsened.
Then came the rage. I demanded angrily why the ‘healer’ refused to heal me, I protested, argued and fought with the Lord. This was when an ego I never knew I possessed was revealed within me. I felt my life of unimportance ‘deserved’ a miracle. I felt ‘entitled’ to a healing. I felt wronged and undeservingly punished in spite of leading a life of- what I had called ‘humility’.
Nevertheless, whether in anger, sadness or absolute desperation, I found myself returning to His feet every morning. And slowly, but surely, He drew me closer. After months and months of clamouring and crying it was evident that my skin-deep wounds had met an oceans-deep Saviour. As an act of faith, I began to journal and write down the promises He made me during this time, believing that at the end of it, I would have the story of my miracle. Today, while writing this, I do possess a miracle-story, but it is far from what I had imagined or envisioned for myself.
Promise by promise, He built me up in God-confidence, something unfaltering, fearless and perfectly impenetrable. I felt the sinews of my new identity uproot the old and consume me fragment by fragment and day by day. And into the heart that cried for a healing, He poured in fresh music and holy poetry. Before the eyes that once counted skin-deep scars, He revealed the beauty of His own scars- scars of love, and scars of redemption and freedom. He shifted my gaze from myself, my inadequacy and imperfection, onto Him, His greatness and perfection. And as I looked to Him, my song changed from one of melancholic self-pity to one of joyous glory and exaltation. My lamentations became alleluias and my pleas became thankyou-s and I love you-s for Jesus.
Because of Him, I was able to recognise the divine opportunity in my suffering. When I couldn’t bear to look at myself, He made me look at Him. This was the same God Moses and Jeremiah turned to in their inability. The God who didn’t meet them as a self-help God with a boost of self-esteem and a motivational pat on the back. The God who didn’t say YES, YOU CAN! But the God who declared YES, I CAN! And as He spoke the words, “Do not be afraid… for I am with you” (Jeremiah 1 :8) their gaze shifted from their inabilities, insecurities and limitations to His ability, security and limitlessness.
I learnt at my lowest and most vulnerable point that
I was shown that value, beauty and confidence do not spring from a sense of self, but from a sense of God. He taught me that my worth was not in who I saw in the mirror, who I was in the eyes of others, nor in my accomplishments or failures, but in who He says I am, in my daughterhood to the highest King of heaven, and in being a canvas and clay for the artist and potter that is Jesus.
In a world where pride and dignity are ascribed to the powerful, wealthy and influential, where fame and glory are pursued by many and envied by most, He placed His royalty right into my hands, crowned me the daughter of a King and clothed me in astonishing God-confidence. And being the good, good father He is, He didn’t stop there. He still remembered my simple prayer for healing. Without even having to ask, my family in Australia ensured I received the best medical care for my acne. Yes, it wasn’t the over-night miracle I wanted nor the dramatic healing I imagined, but here I am almost a year later, still bearing the fading scars on my face, knowing I can declare that Jesus knew what I needed better than anyone else. He knew I needed to know myself in His eyes, He knew that my sadness was an opportunity for His strength, and that my tears were an opportunity to experience His joy.