Written By Agnes Lee, Singapore
I am short, stocky, and average-looking. When I was growing up, people used to comment about how flat my nose was. A friend even told me that my nose looked like it had been hit by something.
I was introduced to Barbie dolls as a kid; they were so pretty, tall, and slim. Lead actresses of my favorite television series were similarly attractive, and I wished I looked like them. Though I knew it was more important to be healthy than pretty, it was difficult to accept that God gave me such ordinary looks compared to other females around me.
Around the age of 18, I decided that I wanted to change my appearance. Instead of my usual t-shirts and jeans, I started dressing more fashionably, wearing accessories, hats, and jackets. I also started wearing make-up whenever I went out. However, make-up could only cover my flaws, not change them. I could not change my height. And despite exercise and sweat, I could not change my body shape either; all I wanted was a bit more curve. I wanted to be pretty and popular, like the models and actresses I admired.
In my early 20s, I met with an aesthetic doctor to talk about possible procedures to enhance my facial features. But after considering the risks and regular Botox injections required, I shelved the idea. Aside from changing my looks, I also wanted to change my body shape, but the doctor could not suggest any procedure that I was comfortable with. Height lengthening procedure is extremely risky as it involves major leg surgery, and the success is not guaranteed. After considering these risks, costs, and non-guaranteed outcomes, it did not take me long to put away the idea of cosmetic surgery.
On top of wishing that I were more attractive, I secretly wished to have a boyfriend. Many of the girls in school who had boyfriends were pretty, and I assumed that I did not have one because I was not good-looking. I was also shy and thought that pretty girls were confident, sociable, and popular because of their looks. I envied them. I hated God and felt that He was not fair. He made so many girls pretty but not me. I disliked my pretty friends. I did not like mixing with them because being around them made me feel ugly and uncomfortable. So I tended to ignore them and their feelings.
I simply could not understand Psalm 139:14, which says that we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made.” I felt that it did not relate to me. I was upset and told God, “You must be kidding me. If I am really carefully and wonderfully made, I would have been a pretty sweet young lady.”
It was not until I came across Proverbs 31:30 one day during my quiet time that I realized how God was speaking to me. It says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Another verse which impacted me was 1 Peter 3:3, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes.”
God is not looking for someone charming or beautiful, but for someone who fears Him. He does not look at our exterior beauty, but at our hearts. These verses humbled me and made me realize how superficial I had been by focusing only on temporal beauty instead of Him. God had never condemned me; I was the one who condemned myself because I felt ugly. In fact, God praises women who fear Him. So if I wanted to be praised by Him, I had to fear him. I had to honor Him by placing Him before myself.
Though I still do not know why God made some girls pretty and not others, I know we are safe when we run to Him with our feelings. His word speaks truth to satisfy the void in us. Bible says in Isaiah 55:9 that God’s ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts. Surely I can trust God that He has made me perfect in His own ways, as it says in Psalm 139:14. He made each of us exactly the way He meant us to be, in order to fulfill our unique individual calling and purpose in the highest manner.
As I progress in the knowledge of His word, I feel called to serve Him in writing. I feel God’s truth seeping into every area of my life and speaking to me. I also gain fresh insights when I read the writings of fellow Christians who share their thoughts about how God has worked in their lives. It encourages me. And I feel the burden to do the same, to share with others my own experiences and thoughts so that others can be encouraged as well in times of need. To write, I need not be pretty on the outside. What I need is a pure undivided heart that desires God above all else, and to make Him my sole desire.
Looking back, if I had been pretty, I might have my earlier dreams of being a model fulfilled. The nature of the job may not allow me to dress modestly, and I may also be too proud of my body. I may not treat my body with respect or remember that it is the temple where the Holy Spirit dwells (1 Corinthians 6:19). God has made me the way I need to be to focus on Him and to embrace my calling in Him.
Now, although I am still tempted to wish for physical beauty whenever I see someone pretty, I remind myself that the world’s definition of beauty is not God’s definition of beauty. I fully understand that I do not need to be pretty to be confident. My confidence is in God who praises those who fear Him and speaks to us in our calling. I am now assured in Psalm 139:14 that I am perfectly made. He gives me confidence that I am handmade by Him personally and that my identity is in Him.