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The Day I Realized Looks Aren’t Everything

It wasn’t until I faced the operating table that I realized the one thing I treasured the most was a functioning, healthy body.

I was 16 when I was diagnosed with scoliosis, which is an extreme curvature of the spine, and the news was received like cold water to the face.

The condition was first picked up by a friend who noticed my shoulder blades were slightly uneven, and my parents often wondered why I walked with such a funny gait.

I remember sitting in the doctor’s room in Starship Hospital, a children’s hospital in New Zealand, bawling my eyes out and feeling awfully sorry for myself when I received the diagnosis.

An X-ray of my backbone was on the screen, and I blanked out half of the questions my parents were asking the doctor. All I could think of was, “What rotten luck I have”.

Looking back, the operation was probably the best thing to have happened to me. Without surgery, the functions of my lung and heart would be impaired, depending on the severity of the condition. But at that moment, I was angry at God.

Honestly though, what I wanted at that time was to look like the early bloomers in schools—to be the girl with the sleek hair, perfect vision (or at least look decent in glasses), and  an enviable body shape. I wanted to receive presents for Valentine’s Day, like some of the girls at school did, and while I waited patiently every Valentine’s Day for a rose or a note, it never came.

What did roll around, however, was the due date of my surgery.

The lead up of being wheeled into the operating theatre was a blur, but I do remember waking up surrounded by tubes, and feeling incredibly thirsty.

The surgery was a success, and a nurse told my parents how pleased the surgeon was with the results. But on my end, it was the start of an uncomfortable recovery period.

For the first few days, I was unable to move, and every muscle and bone in my body ached. Then there was also the issue of being incredibly hungry, except I didn’t have any appetite. Most of all, I remembered how sick I was constantly feeling from all the medications. Putting on my Avril Lavigne CD only made my head hurt, and reading my magazines was impossible as everything swam around me.

Lying on the hospital bed, I had forgotten about wanting to look like the girls at school.  All I wanted was for my aches to go away.

The recovery period once I was discharged was just as difficult. One time, my dad brought me out to buy a new set of pyjamas and to borrow a few books from the library. The shopping area wasn’t a big one, but I struggled to keep up.

Muscles pulled at every angle, and I could only take small steps at a time. I was also easily puffed, so a short walk took at least 15 minutes. Going back to school was just as tiring, so I did half days for three weeks, catching up on assignments at home.

However, the post-surgery period gave me time to reflect and be in awe of just how complex the human body is. My operation was nine hours long and I had to go through a series of tests and check-ups before I was admitted.

I thought of how the surgeon and his team had to fight their way through my tightly intertwined muscle and bone to infuse a steel rod down my spine. It gave me a better understanding of Psalm 139:13, where the Psalmist spoke of how God knitted together his inner being in his mother’s womb. I had always seen that verse as something people toss out to comfort their less-than-pretty counterparts.

But in that circumstance, I saw how God had spent His time joining my cells together in such an organised structure that the surgeons had to carefully cut through them so as not to damage any other parts of my body.

I also begun to understand what the Psalmist meant when he said he was fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalmist 139:14). For me it meant God had taken great care laying out the functions of each of my organs. A heart to pump blood, a backbone to allow us to stand and walk straight, a set of lungs to breathe.

I suppose God could have prevented my scoliosis, but perhaps He allowed it to happen to me so I could truly appreciate what He had given me. While I have not been endowed with a model’s looks (but the reality is, how many of us are?), He has given me a functioning body.

It has been 16 years since my surgery, and I can say that these days I am less concerned about how pretty I should be, and very thankful for a strong, healthy body.

Of course, there are still days when I find myself feeling a tad jealous of a friend’s or acquaintance’s big, blue eyes or their smooth locks. But my perspective shifts when I take stock of what my body can do. My arms and legs work furiously as I do sprints and laps in the pool, and while I am shortsighted, I still have sight, allowing me to read my favourite books. The tiny tastebuds on my tongue allow me to taste and savour chocolate ice creams and burgers.

I have learned that it is very easy to yearn for what we don’t have, and to find fault with what we have. But as you look in the mirror or before you start comparing yourself to your friend’s airbrushed Instagram post, I want to encourage you to remind yourself how God has crafted you, cell by cell, protein by protein, to create the truly marvelous creation that you are, with an intricately designed body.

I’m Not Who You See on Instagram

Written By Hilary Charlet, USA

One square photo. One little box under our fingertip that we scroll through daily. That’s all it takes for us to form an opinion about someone or something.

These little squares are composed under the right light, edited with the best photo-enhancing tools and filters, and posted with witty and well-crafted captions. They tell us who’s up to what, who’s hanging out with whom, and who’s gone to the latest café in town. We look at them when we’re bored, when we’re stuck in traffic, and when we’re hanging out with our friends.

We see these and it sparks something inside of us. On some days, it’s envy, because we wish we were doing this or going there, just like our friends. Other days, it’s inadequacy, because we don’t seem as accomplished as others.

But we forget that while these photos are real instances, they do not fully reflect reality. Rather, they’re more like a highlight reel. I’d daresay that many of us *#doitforthegram more often than we’d like to admit.

So I can say it, as I’m sure many of you can: I’m not who you see on Instagram.

I think through my captions. I insert and delete words. I try to pick just the right photo to go along with what I want to say. I take time to decide what to say and how to say it.

Although my goal for my Instagram account is to inspire, encourage, and love people, I can’t say that I am happy and enthusiastic all the time. According to my Instagram feed, I may look like I have it somewhat together. I have great friends to go with on weekend adventures, new places to hike in and explore, and a great brother and sister-in-law whom I spend a lot of my time with laughing and third-wheeling on their dates. And I can strike a yoga bridge pose on a paddleboard without effort!

But if you really knew me, you’d know the truth is somewhat different. Sure, my feed is full of actual events and portrays how I strive to live daily. But it does not reflect my every waking moment.

I have my struggles and doubts. My cheerful persona online doesn’t mean there aren’t days when I grow impatient waiting and want to settle down because I can’t figure out what God wants me to do or where He wants me to be. I have my stressful days as well as days when I’m super pumped and expectant, knowing that God is working behind the scenes in my life. There are times when I question whether what I have to say is even making a difference, and times when I get to witness how what I’ve said has encouraged someone else.

Social media has a way of making it seem like everyone has their stuff together and their life is flawless. Don’t get caught in believing those lies and start comparing your lives to those of others. Just because we don’t see the bad days and struggles of these people doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

Next time you find yourself wishing your life were like so-and-so’s, remember that you are where God meant you to be. You are loved. You don’t need makeup and filters to make yourself look more appealing so someone will like you more.

Instead, embrace your natural beauty and quirkiness. Laugh at yourself. Ask people questions, be curious in a world that is more focused on communicating behind a screen. Be yourself unapologetically in a world that tries to dictate who you should be. Love the unlovable, forgive the unforgivable, take a chance and know that God has your back, and most importantly, be the person God has called you to be—fully and without fear.

The number of double taps and followers we get do not define who we are or how much we are worth. We’re so much more than a tiny square photo.

So, no, I’m not who you see on Instagram. I’m so much more, as you are. I laugh, I cry, I freak out, I get excited, I stress out about silly things. I think I have it all figured out, then I stumble, laugh, and keep chugging along when I realize God has other plans for my life.

What you see on Instagram is part of who I am, but behind every photo, behind every social media account, there’s an author with a valuable life and an incredible story. There are emotions, passions, hopes and dreams, and all that we are cannot be minimized to fit into a social media platform, for we are so much more than that.

 

 *#doitforthegram is used to refer to someone does something unique with the sole intention of taking a photo to post on Instagram.

WHISTLER’S PAINTING

By Tin Hubilla

Whistler’s Mother is a painting of a woman dressed in black with a painting in the room. The painter James McNeil Whistler said, “Don’t fit the picture in the room but fit the room for the picture.”

But that’s not how we normally behave. Remember that moment when you go out shopping and you saw this cute wallpaper or a cute decoration and you knew instantly that it would go right in with your room? Or when you saw a pair of shoes that would go well with a particular outfit in your wardrobe? It’s pretty natural for us to look for things that fit in with what we currently have.

But do we try to fit Christ to our current lifestyle too?

In church last Sunday, the pastor talked about how we try to fit Christ’s image to our fancy. We view Him according to how He can fit in to our needs and wants. And according to that image, we find room in our hearts for Christ. When that image doesn’t fit in that room anymore, we make another room or find another room, which is too much exhaustion on our part.

What if we cannot make or find another room?

Where would we go next?

We have got it all wrong. We must fit our heart to the image of Christ, not the other way round.

God is big and surely we want to make a room for Him, worthy of His greatness, a room where God “will make his home in [our] hearts” (Ephesians 3:17) because He has all the space He needs to do whatever He wants in our lives.

Thoughts of the day 🙂

ODJ: made new

August 14, 2013 

READ: Song of Songs 8:6-7 

Love is as strong as death (v.6).

She embodies beauty, both inside and out. But she also carries the burden of deep shame due to the actions of a selfish man. Far from harmless, his hands not only touched her, but they robbed her of security and honour. Perhaps he saw it as a game—simply sacrificing her innocence on the altar of a sex-saturated culture. But to her, it resulted in a painful, lifelong wound of the heart and mind.
As much as God delights in giving gifts to His people, the powers of darkness thrill in depleting hope, destroying peace and devastating hearts (John 10:10). Few weapons are as pervasive as the chaos they create in the perversion of sexual intimacy. Single or married, young or old, male or female, the fallout from those affected has been extensive.

A restorative picture of God’s design for sexual intimacy, the Song of Songs strips away our pretenses about love as we discover the power of God’s passion for us. He became for us the very Love that was as strong as death (Song of Songs 8:6), a Love willing to be crucified (John 3:16).

Caring little about our shame, and encouraging us to live without sexual restraint, the powers of darkness want us to live in sexual brokenness. Few, if any of us, will escape this world unscathed in some way or another God, however, was not unaware.

Like the lover who reminds his beloved that the barren winter has passed, He calls us from our place of shame and desolation. He makes all things new (Isaiah 43:19). No sin is too great, no shame too weighty, no lie from the enemy too powerful. Only one question remains: will we love Him in return? (Song of Songs 6:3; 1 John 4:10). —Regina Franklin

Luke 15:1-10 ‹

MORE
Read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 and consider why sexual sin is devastating to our love relationship with God.  
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How have your experiences in life shaped your understanding of sex? What is God’s view of it, and how will you live it out? 

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