When I was a teenager, I was grateful that I had few zits on my face. I hated, however, the fact that I had them all over my back.
It was a social hazard to go swimming or change my shirt around other teens. I couldn’t bear the thought of my peers seeing my acne-covered back and being grossed out by me. So I did the only thing I knew to effectively get rid of it: I baked my fair skin in the sun until it burned.
As it turns out, sunburning the skin is a horrible idea and can have long-term consequences for your skin, but I didn’t care. As far as I could tell, it worked. The hot pink color of my skin camouflaged my pimples; and when I took my shirt off, I was only left to feel embarrassed by my skinny frame.
That was summer though. When fall came, I couldn’t toast my body in the sun; and in no time, my real complexion emerged. I resented my body for it – I resented myself for it. I stood in the mirror and tried to gauge how bad it looked until, overwhelmed with anger, I often clawed away at my back, trying to scrape off the zits.
That was 20 years ago. The acne is gone, and I’d like to think that the back-clawing self-hatred of my teenage years is a thing of the past, but I know it isn’t. There are things about myself that I still resent, but those things are on the inside now – things like unattractive personality quirks, bad habits, and unhealthy desires.
Cover up, camouflage, claw it away: these are still my natural instincts when I feel embarrassed by my imperfections. The problem is, if we try to hide these unsightly areas from ourselves, we’ll most certainly try to hide them from Jesus as well.
It’s scary to reveal our unattractive parts though – especially to God. We’re afraid He will reject us the way we reject ourselves, but something authentic and supernatural happens as we begin to trust Jesus with the broken parts of us. As renowned artist Lilias Trotter put it, “Take the very hardest thing in your life – the place of difficulty, outward or inward, and expect God to triumph gloriously in that very spot. Just there He can bring your soul into blossom.”
We have to remember that God is not like us. He does not run from shame; He stretches His arms out on the cross, invites our shame, and says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Jesus was strong enough to endure the cross, and He is strong enough to walk us through the journey to wholeness.