Your beauty comes from inside you

I’ve never been a fan of the ‘new year, new you’ message that floats around at this time of year. There is nothing wrong with setting goals or targets for yourself, but I believe that truely loving the person you are, the person who God made you to be is the best New Years resolution that can be made.

I believe it is much harder to learn to love yourself in today’s society. We are bombarded by the media, by the vastness of the online world to live a certain way, to look a certain way, and to think a certain way. Marketing up to Christmas tends to be, ‘spend as much money as possible and eat as much food as you can before the new year.’ Yet as soon as January 1st arrives the message changes to ‘get yourself to the gym you overindulgent wretch’ and ‘lose a million stone before Easter so you can put it all back on in Easter eggs.’ I wrote an essay recently for my MA on the power of consumerism and how it can and does have a debilitating effect on our lives. People are being pulled, but not in the natural seasons such as Spring, but by shopping seasons. We know what time of year it is by what is on the shelves and when the sales have started. Fruit and veg are available all year round, imported from around the world. I saw red tulips on sale recently, a spring flower available here in December. All seasons are becoming one with Earth’s resources becoming a 24hour supermarket, a supermarket that isn’t even open to all.

It is so difficult to keep a foot on the rich and worldly wise Earth that we inhabit. It is so difficult to look in the mirror and love what we see. Yet God looks at us with such unconditional love, we are his creation whom he loves. When Jesus walked a human life it was his deeds, his love, and his words that made him shine as the light of the world. His inner glow radiating out to all those who follow him. 

But what about us? Can our inner beauty be seen through our outer appearance? I’m not talking about clothes or make-up here I’m talking about our personality. Can our smiles say a thousand words, can the joy in our eyes lighten up someone’s terrible day, can our good deeds bring love to people who desperately need it, can we laugh at ourselves when we are wrong or have made a mistake? Can we remember that we are not perfect?

We are beautiful, imperfect people who come to Christ for forgiveness. That forgiveness allows us to start again, to keep moving forward doing more good than bad. But we’re not perfect so we regularly come to Christ for forgiveness to set us out on the path again on a lifelong journey of faith.

So this new year, don’t focus on changing who you are, focus on finding out who God has made you to be. Ask him through prayer to show,to guide, to encourage, to forgive. Listen and reflect, read and feed your inner self, and love the person you are called to be. Through this prayerful relationship our inner beauty will shine through and everyone will see him through us, through our deeds, through our smiles, and through our words.

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Silent night

A prayer from lips that make no sound

a noise exhaled

though none around

to hear pleas through heaving breath

barely alive close to death

quivering hands gently placed

palm to wood

splinters sharply

pain

sheltered darkly 

from the tree

the manger built

from the tree

a saviour wilt

set me free

on my knees

with silent lips

he arriveth to me

under that star

palm to wood

I lean in

breath newborn scent

heaven sent

on this silent night.

Can God really spread a table in the wilderness? 

I’ve been thinking a lot during this season of Advent. I’ve also been on a journey, I’m not quite sure what that journey is, I think that a large part of it is a wrestling of my own self doubt. A line of questioning that began with the completion of my BAP forms. I think those forms have some sort of mystical powers, or questions that stir up all sorts of feelings, doubts, and confusion. It’s been a real sense of being in the wilderness since I filled and sent them off. 

Why do I feel so alone? Yet I don’t feel alone? Why do I feel like I don’t belong anywhere? But yet I know I belong somewhere but not quite sure where that is. Why do I love church and then feel absolutely infuriated by it at the same time? 

I’ve been thinking about John the Baptist, and thinking about how part of his calling from God was to be in the wilderness permanently. I wonder what that must have felt like to John? Was he confused by his placing on the outskirts, or did he just know that his calling from God was worth so much more than feeling comfortable. Did John sit at night in his rough robes in the freezing cold, enjoying his honey and locust buffet, being one with nature, being one with everything that God’s hands had made with a smile on his face? I like to believe that he did have a deep love and joy for his calling, and how amazing he must have felt to fulfil it and baptise Jesus, the one he was paving the way for.

When I reflected on my past, compiling memories that I had to put in my form, I realised there was a pattern. A pattern of me feeling lonely as I was repeatedly pushed out from wherever I had been. I started to wonder whether this recurrent feeling of loneliness was because of my own failings to not feel content and accept where I was being placed. Had I thought about whether I was experiencing all these things because that is where God is placing me. But for what reason might I have to feel this way? The answer was pretty simple really which came to me in a reaccuring dream. Being put in uncomfortable situations where you can’t rely on your own ego, where you can’t rely on the affirmation of popularity, where you can’t rely on the praise of peers is exactly the place where you let go and let God take you by the hands and walk with you.

Maybe this is what John the Baptist realised in the wilderness, maybe he also experienced the caring and nurturing nature of God through his provision. John ate and drank off the land, God spread a table for him in the wilderness, he didn’t need others to keep him going and even in prison I’m sure that God was with him in those chains. By letting go of himself, John freed himself to serve, to Baptise, to motivate people to repent, to point the way to Christ. 

Is this what God is showing me? That I need to change the way I think about being in situations that push me away? That I need to remember that God has me by the hand. To remember that I leave my emotional neediness baggage at the feet of Jesus and keep walking forward secure in his plan and the calling he has for me.

This I believe I can do, and I think I’m doing it, and I hope and pray that I can pass this message of hope on to whoever I can serve, whoever I meet on the outskirts, in my future ministry.