A Different Kind of Freedom

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Genesis 1:31 ESV)

In my small hometown, the Fourth of July was a big deal—baby parades, talent shows, carnival games, soft pretzels, and fireworks that ended with a sparkling American flag while the national anthem blared over the park loudspeakers.

The real high point came at dusk with the Queen of the Candles Pageant.

Each spring a dozen high school senior girls were chosen by secret ballot. On the Fourth of July, the girl with the most votes was proclaimed Queen of the Candles. Thousands of candles were lit along the stone-lined stream that ran through the parkas the queen remained onstage, beaming. All around her stood her court, the other eleven girls, their eyes wet with unshed tears.

Chosen but not crowned. Pretty but not pretty enough.

I watched the pageant unfold every summer of my childhood and imagined myself in a long gown, wavy hair piled on my head. Deep down I knew I wasn’t queen material, but maybe I could be part of her court? Just one of the twelve?

My hopes began to fade as the seasons passed and reality set in. By my senior year, I knew the truth. I was popular with the girls in my class because I was funny and friendly, but I would not be strolling across the amphitheater stage on the Fourth of July. No way.

As voting day approached, my father assured me, “Don’t worry. You’ll be in the pageant.”

I knew better. I didn’t have the right hair, the right shape, the right look. When a dozen of my smiling friends lit their candles on stage that hot summer night, I was the one fighting tears.

Because of that disappointment and many more like it, I spent the next ten years desperately trying to find a man who would call me beautiful. (The sad truth? Some guys will call a woman anything just to get her in bed.) It was a long, lost decade full of poor choices and lame excuses.

Then I discovered what beautiful really means.

After years of feeling less than, I met a God who called me more than.

A God who “rewards those who earnestly seek him” (Heb. 11:6).

A God who “crowns the humble with victory” (Ps. 149:4).

A God who “saw all that he had made” and called it “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

In Him, I found a different kind of freedom—the freedom to stop worrying about whether or not people love me and simply love them. The freedom to accept whatever God gave me in the way He created me to live for His glory. The freedom to stand in front of a mirror and say, “Ta-da!”

I’ve also learned what makes us beautiful to God: the light in our eyes, the glow on our faces, and the warmth of our words.

Just as a candle captures our attention when it’s lit, a woman whose eyes shine with Christ’s love stands out in a crowd. She knows “the eye is the lamp of the body” (Matt. 6:22) and the Holy Spirit is her light source.

A radiant complexion? Also an inside job. As we all “with un-veiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory,” we are “transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

And those warm words, that tender voice? They demonstrate “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Pet. 3:4).

Rest, knowing you were chosen and “loved by God” (1 Thess. 1:4)—the One who calls you beautiful and means it.

Prayer:

God, from the very beginning, even before You created the world, You considered me, and when You made me, You called me very good. Nothing can change that. When the standards of the world and my inner critic tell me otherwise, help me to remember the truth and to recognize that the beauty I see in You resides in me as well. Amen.

This is an excerpt from Take Heart: 100 Devotions to Seeing God When Life’s Not Okay by (in)courage  - a devotional book now available on DaySpring.com. Learn more about this book, or shop other books & devotionals from DaySpring.