Deep, deep down I have hidden away and held onto moments where the way I was made felt not the same. That time in middle school when I overheard a friend at the pool make an offhand comment about the way I looked. That older woman in church with the drawn-on eyebrows who always gave me wide-eyed, knowing looks when I ate a second oreo at the fellowship table after service. That boy in college who told me very clearly where I fell on the scale of beautiful. That teacher who made me feel small because I was too scattered, too disheveled, too much stacked against me to guarantee I could be made into anything.
We all have them, I think: moments where someone’s words meet our fears and our hearts twist lies into cobbled together, shabby looking pretend-truth. We hold onto them. We follow these lies swallowed as truth. We run hard after them, wanting to dig our way out of shame, fear, guilt. We want to be just the same but our fear cries that we never will.
I have spent much of my life in this empty-ended relationship with how I was made. I have lived afraid of hearing that who I am on the outside is all there is. I have lived desperately working just to prove that I’m trying. I have swallowed words like those summer words born on middle school lips over and over again. I’ve lived afraid to even talk about it.
Now, I have a girl of my own and I’m just plain tired of this dysfunctional relationship. Shame doesn’t change anything deep down, really. It just makes for more hiding. Guilt itself doesn’t restore, and fear is an empty carriage with no driver, running wildly down bumpy streets. I want to know and believe the truth about how I was made, how we were made. When the time comes, I want to be able to grab my girl by the face and look into her coffee-spilled-out eyes and tell her something I believe, something I believe so much that it has actually changed me.
Because the truth is that not one of us is just the same. There are places where God desires and designs sameness: one Savior, one mind, one body of believers, one mission. When He made us? Sameness wasn’t a way to evaluate our value. In fact, He made us in the way of the Hebrew word raqam. We have been skillfully wrought. You and I have been made like beautiful, intricate embroidery. We were made to be varied and beautiful splashes of stitches that come together in His vision for our life. I like to think that He bent His strong and broad Maker shoulders over each of us and patiently pulled, knotted, criss-crossed the threads He dreamt of into place. He knows color and beauty in ways we don’t and He chose purple and green and bright yellow and the deepest pink you could dream up.
He made us tall. He made us short. He made us skinnier than a minute. He made us round and full. He made us bold and bright. He made us gentle and pastel. He made us full of emotional swaths and hard lines. He made us orderly and neat-rowed. He made us wild and messy. He made us a beautiful, intricate embroidery.
He made us in His image. And He is not a one-dimensional God. He is judgement and mercy. He is the law and grace. He is holy and approachable. If He wanted sameness walking around this dirt and water-covered earth, He would have made it so. Instead, He made us varied. He made us different. That is our value: we are not just the same. He is a creator God and every single thread of us reflects His power and ability to create beyond anything we could dream. We reflect His skillful ability to make beauty out of a broken mess of a thing. No thing is too broken to be made beautiful.
The standard is not others. It isn’t numbers or faces and bodies photo-reeled in front of us. This is the way of the world, to make systems and formulas and numbers in order to add up value. But, we don’t need a formula to calculate who we are or what we are worth. We need a Person. We need Christ. This is God’s vision for us, that we be moving in our varied and threaded nature toward being more like Him–like the One who asked, “Will you be made well, made whole?”. What if wholeness is walking fully aware of our stitched nature as He made it? What if wholeness is putting our hands to loving others instead of picking away at these beautiful patterns that He designed? What if wholeness is living free from the formulas and schemes and desperate grasping to feel valuable? What if it’s just believing God and acting like it?
What if it’s this:
Beautiful us. Beautiful Him.