Before we adopted her, I had imagined our daughter in my mind. I’m sure biological parents do this as well. I had no idea what she would look like, but I hoped for my blonde hair, the light blue eyes my husband and I share. I knew she could be another ethnicity or look as different from me as night from day, but I had hoped I’d see myself in her face.
Before her, the greatest love I’d ever known were for my tiny niece and nephew in whose faces at only a few weeks, I could see our family traipse across every expression. I didn’t know how it would feel to claim a child that looked nothing like me.
Then we met her in the NICU of an Texas hospital 4 years ago tomorrow. She had a round face, a rounded nose, and the darkest of brown eyes. She didn’t look like me at all. Her hair is brown, and her skin is olive toned, browning the moment she steps foot into the summer sun, just like my skin turns an embarrassed shade of pink.
And I love every bit of her so ferociously. I love the single freckle on her cheek, the slightly red sparkle to her hair in the bright sunshine, the ticklish spot on her neck, her ‘outie’ belly button. Her chocolate-brown eyes sparkle with life and light. My own seem pale in comparison. As she grows, so does her beauty, but the qualities that make her the most beautiful are her exuberance, unquenchable spirit, and indomitable joy. Her infectious laugh and insatiable curiosity fill every room. Somehow I love her all the more because she looks nothing like us, because she gets to write entirely her own story for us, none of that “she’s just like you were at this age” based on her DNA (although apparently the parental ‘I hope you have a child just like you’ curse works on adoptions, too).
But will she someday wish she looked like us? has she already and doesn’t have the words? She is already absorbing so much about the world. I worry if she will know how utterly beautiful she is because of who she is or will the media and playground bullies ever make her feel unpretty.
I came across an article yesterday (ABC News) about a doctor who has invented a laser process to remove the pigment from the iris, literally changing brown eyes to blue. While this procedure is not authorized or approved and could cause cataracts or glaucoma, my thoughts immediately went to my precious girl’s deep brown eyes and wondered if she would ever consider such a procedure as an adult. Would she risk her eyes to fit into some worldly version of beauty? I desperately pray that she never feels badly enough about herself to want to, but I know that very few women would describe themselves as beautiful. That some of the most naturally gorgeous women I know have told me they don’t feel attractive. I have always felt I’m pretty enough (post high school), but struggle with my weight.
Like my post from a few days ago, I know much of the parenting answer lies with me, the example I set about what beauty is and the way my husband demonstrates how he sees my beauty. I’ve taught her that she is beautiful because of her smile and heart. I try to say that we’re getting ‘fancy’ versus making ourselves beautiful when we fix our hair, but she sees me weigh myself, curl my hair, and put on jewelry.
We live in a society literally inundated with images of physical perfection. Even the kids on the Disney channel are model thin and picture perfect. Counteracting the multitude of messages she is getting won’t be easy.
But God is very clear about what He thinks is beautiful.
1 Peter 3:3-4 ESV “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Teaching her to find and cultivate her hidden person of the heart with imperishable beauty that is found in a spirit completely sold out for Jesus, has to be a large part of stocking her inner arsenal against the waves of lies the world is waiting to throw at her. Also, surrounding her with women who live this identity in Christ is crucial. Some of the women who attend our church are like this, so beautiful from Jesus just glowing through them. These are the women I want my daughter to know, to love, to see, to emulate, not necessarily be quite so caught up in physical beauty, but it’s hard. She’s cute. I love taking pretty pictures of her, putting her in frilly clothes, and need to make sure I’m not sending her confusing messages. Because God doesn’t really see any of those things.
1 Samuel 16:7b ESV “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
I wonder what I would think of her if I couldn’t see her face when she’s thinking, or her eyes sparkle in the sunshine when she is playing on the swings. If I could only see her behavior, would she seem as beautiful? Would I?
The world will judge our fashion sense, our bad hair days, our bodily imperfections, but only God sees with what we are truly made, and loves us from the inside out. He judges our hearts.
Proverbs 31:30 ESV “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
I think it is interesting that in just a few days, I’ve been meditating on what God wants from me, for me as a woman and parent, and I keep coming across verses that talk about how beautiful God finds the woman who fears Him, not as in afraid, but as in respects the righteousness and glory of our holy Creator.
Also, in those same few days, just my daily readings and perusals have brought answers to what God does not find beautiful. 1 Peter 3 talks about the outward appearance not being the source of beauty to God. In Isaiah 3, the wayward women of Zion are described as wanton, haughty, adorning themselves with necklaces, pendants, bracelets, scarves, anklets, etc.
The outward expression of who we are should be in our deeds of love and service to God and for one another; in that way we are made beautiful. I know that for me growing to understand how God sees me has made my own struggles with beauty and self-image grow fainter. The more I work on being truly beautiful in my heart as a Godly, gentle, loving woman, the less I care how the world judges the outside. But it took me 42 years to get to this place inside myself.
I don’t want her to ever waver from knowing where her true beauty lies, inside her heart and in the body that God knit together in her birth-mother’s womb. He gave her every feature, every strength, and every weakness so that she could become the beautiful work He has planned for her life and witness.
Maybe we should think in terms of “making ourselves beautiful” when we open the Bible, when we pray, when we choose to listen to God’s voice instead of our iVoice, when we fear the Lord and praise His name. Maybe then, she’ll make healthy choices to care for her body, but know that her beauty has nothing to do with medical procedures or iris pigment or body size. Beauty is in the quiet things between her and God.
Because the only eyes I want her to see herself through are her Heavenly Father’s eyes.