True Beauty

For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. – Jesus, as quoted in Luke 6:45 Berean Study Bible

I don’t remember when I first became aware of my physical appearance and began comparing myself with others. It may have been when I started school. Yeah, that early.

In first grade I wore my hair in braids.

When other girls came to school wearing nicer clothes than I had, my hand-me-downs seemed shabby and cheap.

By the time I was in third grade, my inferiority complex had taken root. That was the year I decided to cut my long, silky, straight hair and get a curly perm like the prettiest girl in class.

Well, what looked nice on her did nothing for me, except make me look like a poodle. I hated it! Lesson: What works for others may not work for you. Know thyself and be thyself.

That was the year I got glasses. Another item on the growing list of things about myself I detested.

And I always had to sit up front because of my hearing loss. I hated it! I was a marked child, labeled forever as “hard-of-hearing.” I despised that phrase! And I loathed myself.

I remember resting my head on my desk, closing my eyes, and envisioning myself in heaven, where I’d see without glasses and hear perfectly well. My hair would be long, straight, and silky once again. And I wouldn’t wear hand-me-downs.

I hid well my inferiority complex throughout my school days. It was only when I got my first job after college and could afford contact lenses and new clothes that I began to blossom.

But those attempts at bettering my physical appearance were rooted in my deep-seated feelings of inadequacy. I didn’t overcome them. I simply changed my outward appearance, hoping to measure up.

But when we’re using the wrong measuring stick, we’re going to get the wrong readings.

Eventually I learned the standard of true beauty isn’t what we see on the outside, but what we are on the inside.

“Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him,” God told Samuel the prophet when he went to anoint the next king of Israel. “For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).

What we are on the inside determines our true beauty or lack of it.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart,” Jesus taught, “and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of ” (Luke 6:45 NIV).

Whatever fills you inside will eventually makes its way outside. It will overflow to do good or harm. It will leak out in unguarded moments.

I like the illustration I recently read about a person balancing a filled-to-the-brim cup. Unfortunately she tripped, and the contents spilled over on whatever was nearby.

What are the contents of your cup?

Love, peace, joy, contentment, compassion . . . these are the good things that will spill out.

But anger, resentment, jealousy, bitterness, hatred . . . these things are like a caustic poison, eating away at your insides and destroying your life and relationships.

You have a choice over what resides inside your heart, mind, and spirit.

Remember the story of the old Cherokee and his grandson?

“There is a battle between two wolves inside us all,” the old man told him. “One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, and ego. The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, and truth.”

two-wolves

“Which wolf wins?” the boy asked.

The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”

Purify my heart, O Lord. Purge out all that displeases You and replace it with good. Then remind me to feed the right wolf. Amen.

Read and meditate on Luke 6:43–45; 1 Peter 3:3–4.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

One Good Thing

 

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. –Proverbs 4:23 (GNT)

I’d just graduated from college and had gotten my first job teaching junior high English in Punxsutawney. Mom had wanted me to get a job in the Mon Valley and live at home.

“Think of all the money you’ll save,” she said.

Sure, I wouldn’t have to pay rent or cook (I didn’t know how anyway), but it would mean losing the independence I craved.

I did consider it, though. We were both still reeling from my father’s death the previous November. But Mom and I were too much alike, and when we were together, the sparks flew.

So, knowing not a soul, I pored through the “For Rent” ads in the local paper. Although I grew up in a town, my dream was to live in the country. I found a second story furnished apartment in a village about a mile out of town. Not as country as I wanted, but for now it would do.

My fiancé helped me move in – then drove out of my life, shattering my heart and unleashing a flood of grief I’d held in since Dad died.

At night the pain was the most intense. I awoke in the morning emotionally raw. But I didn’t have time to withdraw from life and give full vent to my sorrow. As a first-year teacher, I was learning the school’s curriculum, planning lessons, and dealing with teenagers. I was barely out of my teens myself. I turned 21 that November, a year after Dad died.

I also had my own place and all the responsibilities that went with that. Which included driving three miles every day to my landlady’s for water.

Who in their right mind, you ask, would rent a second story apartment with no water? A 20-year-old, fresh-out-of-college girl desperate to begin her life, that’s who. Who believed her landlady’s promises that she’d have water “tomorrow.”

After a month of lugging the day’s water up the outside stairs, I found another apartment. In town. Furnished. With water.

When I informed my landlady, she dangled what she thought would be a temptation: “What if I rented the apartment across from you to a nice, single state trooper?”

No dice. Through all the heartache, upheaval, and broken promises, I’d done some growing up and had learned a few lessons.

The most important was the attitude of my mind: that what I focused on – what I chose to think about – determined my attitude and consequently my life.

I could choose to wallow in grief, bewail broken promises, lament lugging water, and feel sorry for myself. After all I was going through, I certainly earned the right.

Or I could choose to find one good thing in each day and dwell on that. Just one good thing . . .

I chose the latter. And it turned my life around. By Christmas, I had a comfortable apartment, contact lenses, a new piano and guitar. At the end of January that first year of teaching, I met the true love of my life. Together we built our dream house in the country.

Another, and probably the most important, thing I chose was to go back to church. Eventually that led me to a deeper, higher, more meaningful relationship with my Creator.

It was only years later that I discovered what God’s Word had to say about the attitude of our minds and the quality of our lives:

Our lives are determined by the way we think (Proverbs 4:23).

When we change the way we think – renew our minds – we are transformed from the inside out (Romans 12:2).

We choose the way we think by taking our thoughts captive and making them in line with what God wants us to think (2 Corinthians 10:5).

We are what we think (Proverbs 23:7).

What about you? What do you focus on?

Thank You, Lord, for being with me, guiding me, and showing me the way to a fulfilling life. Amen.

Read and meditate on Philippians 4:8.

© 2018 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.