"You're perfect the way you are"
"Just accept yourself and you'll be happy"
"Don't ever change"
These are just some of the phrases that we have grown all to accustomed to, and I confess, I became so immune to hearing them I didn't realize the damage they could do should we actually believe them.
There's a thought now, that accepting yourself the way you are, and the things you do, will bring about happiness. That all those years spent worried about what other people think, and trying to be something you weren't meant to be, will be made right, when we simply stop trying.
And like every effective lie, there is a hint of beautiful truth in it. There's truth in the fact that we are no longer supposed to lives by others standards, and that there are things that we are simply not, cannot, and should not strive to be, and yes loving ourselves is an imperative for a healthy life.
But does it stop there?
If we take this as evidence that there is no standard for us to live up to, nor any versions of ourselves we should to strive for beyond the one we currently inhabit. I think we do our hearts, souls, bodies, and relationships a grand disservice.
I believe in God, I believe in the design behind the universe, I believe in purpose. When you look at any facet of life, at its root you will find the fingerprints of an artist, weaving together both physical and abstract for a beautiful intention to live into. God tells us we are "fearfully and wonderfully made". And the arch of Jesus' message was urging us the realize the the we were put in a story that moves us forward into greater beauty and fullness the more we choose to follow it.
But there is another factor a play, our own darkness, rebellion, and resistance to work and feel pain. It's our desire to do things our way, apart from that design, and apart from the pressure to live into the person we were created to be.
I can remember a time in my life, when after growing tired of worrying and struggling with the disappointment of being unhealthy, depressed and 40 pounds overweight, I gave up. I didn't know it though, in fact when I gave up I believed in my heart I was doing something good. I said to myself, "this is who I am, and I accept myself". But if I was honest wasn't happy with who I was, but to face the truth was painful and something I wasn't willing to do, so I found escapes and distractions that made me feel better about myself temporarily but ultimately kept me away from health and pushed me further away from the better person I could become. The reality was, I wasn't actually accepting myself, but instead denying myself the better person I could become.
When I stared at the realization that becoming a person of health took time, healthy eating, exercise, pain, and patience, I decided it was a journey I didn't want to take, and so justified my unhealthy behavior, and anesthetized the pain I felt with things that served to only hurt me more. By announcing I accepted myself for who I was, allowing, and giving myself justification to remain in my own darkness.
To simply, and concretely accept ourselves the way we are, denies ourselves the beauty of the creatures we could become. This truth finds its way into every facet of life, physical, mental, professional, etc.
So often when faced with the shortcomings in our lives, our first reaction is to deny, justify, escape, anesthetize, instead of facing head on our inevitable brokenness and making the hard and more time consuming choice to be an agent of life in the world that so needs it.
The hard truth is, we live in an imperfect world, one that is filled with sickness, disease, abuse, hurt, baggage, addiction, injustice, and fear. And believe it or not, everyone of us been touched by the brokenness that this world has to offer. None of us are perfect, "no not one". None of us are even close. But the beauty, I see, is that our loving Creator accepts us in the middle of our brokenness and pain, but doesn't stop there. He then offers us what no one else can, a story forward. But to live into Beautiful story, we must stop accepting our brokenness as health, stop looking to escape the hurt, and instead learn to recognize and face our pain and brokenness. We must learn to desire the light He offers more the safety and comfort of the darkness we already live.
In a culture that seeks only to anesthetize, escape, and ignore hurt, I believe we are called to experience, acknowledge, and feel fully the pain of life, so that redemption can be achieved.
It's only when walk through the dark, can we appreciate and crave the light. Pain is the muscle that tears to make us stronger and the surgery that cuts to make us whole.
Don't run from hurt but instead embrace, own, and live with it. What will feel like death will be the catalyst to finding life.
Being a person who seeks only to "feel" better about them selves, will find their journey one of escape, addiction, blame, and denial ultimately leading to deeper cyclical pain.
But a person actually dedicated "becoming" a better self, will have a story of hard work, realization, dedication, introspection, and humility which will lead ultimately to becoming a more whole and strong person.
I encourage you to remember, we all have different paths, different battles, different darkness as individuals we must face. And it's easy to judge other people's paths because you have not been on it, or someone else's fights because it is not your own. But the reality is you have your own paths, and fights to experience. The beauty is realizing whatever journey and battle you or anyone else is facing, we can know we are loved no matter what, and because of that love, we have a way forward, past simply coming to terms with our weakness, and into a stronger more beautiful self.
So wherever you are today, know first you are loved and accepted wherever you are whatever you have done or become, but also know that you have an opportunity to not just escape, or passively accept yourself but you are actually given the opportunity to become a more whole and beautiful you.