McDonald, Abby

There is a vast difference between hearing words and actually believing them. For most of my life, I did the former.

To say I took things with a grain of salt was an understatement. I used the entire shaker.

My grandmother never missed an opportunity to tell me I was beautiful. I would give her an obligatory smile and think that as my grandmother, she was required to say that. I didn’t see what she saw. I measured my worth by my ability to perform and to please others.

But beauty? It was too subjective. Too personal. When I heard pastors preach on grace and tell me God wanted a personal relationship with me, the concept felt foreign. The Creator of the Universe wanted to know me? What did I have to offer Him?

My unbelief led me down a road of poor decisions and an endless search for love in places that could never fill me. To say I was a mess would be an understatement. Although I attended a Christian school, went to church, and did all the typical things a Christian girl would do, I didn’t live a life based on truth. To me, truth was subjective, and it changed based on the mood of whomever would fill my cup of affirmation for that day.

I only shared the version of me I thought would be accepted . . . and wondered why my life felt empty and aimless. I floated from one relationship to another, wondering why this deep ache inside me was never satiated by anything I did. When I projected my insecurities onto others, I wondered what pushed them further away.

After graduating college in my twenties, I landed my first job and settled into my own apartment. God sent me someone who stayed. Even when he saw the flaws, quirks, and frailties, his resolve was unmoved.

After marriage, a cross-country move and the delivery of our first child, he saw darkness in me I was sure would send him running. Postpartum depression consumed me, and I flailed for something familiar in a world that seemed foreign and lonely.

I was failing in all of the ways I based my worth. I couldn’t perform as a new wife and mother. Most days, I couldn’t even get my baby to stop crying. On days when I didn’t think I could make it another round, I would simply place my head on the pillow and say, “Help me, God.”

And He did.

There wasn’t one “aha” moment or lightning bolt, but there were steady strokes of grace.

Each time God reached out through a person, a printed word, or gesture, my heart softened. A year after my son was born, I sat in a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) meeting and realized I didn’t have to perform to be loved. I could just be me. 

“And if by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were,
then grace would no longer be grace.”
Romans 11:6

I listened to stories of sleepless nights and temper tantrums. I saw women be vulnerable and real so His light could shine through them, unhindered by the front of self-sufficiency.

When we are transparent with each other, God’s supernatural love takes tangible form.

We see Him in the sunrise and in the majesty of mountain peaks, but one of the greatest ministries Jesus has given us here on earth is relationships. After all, He gave up His omnipresence and heavenly home to become human in order to have a relationship with each one of us.

As I saw my husband’s steadfast love and the authenticity of my new community, I began to see myself as God did for the very first time. And what I now see fully is this:

I am not beautiful because someone else says I am.

I am beautiful because I am His.

One evening, my husband and I sat on the couch reading The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and I realized that by making the commitment to follow Jesus, I would become more myself than ever before. I saw for the first time that living a full and meaningful life wasn’t about me or my need to be affirmed. It was about Him.

In a defining moment there in our living room, I made the choice. My days going forward would never be the same. And the angels in heaven rejoiced.

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