I happened upon this video while trolling through my Twitter feed and, though I almost never click links for advertisements, I found myself intrigued with the premise. A sketch artist draws a portrait of a woman through her description of herself, then, without seeing the woman, draws another portrait, of the same woman, from the description given by another person’s impressions. The two portraits came out strikingly different in some cases. It is a vivid portrayal of how our perception of ourselves does not always match up to others’ perspectives.
I have a big forehead, protruding nose with a bump on it, and a scattering of acne that I had thought I would have outgrown by now. I bet the sketch guy would have had a field day with that description. My portrait would probably end up looking very witch-like, which, according to a brutally honest four year old I babysat in eighth grade, might be valid. Obviously, I totally dismissed her words and didn’t allow them to eternally traumatize me… Intellectually, I know that those closest to me would (hopefully!) not pick out those features first, but it’s what I emotionally see in the mirror. Fortunately, the descriptions were just for a head shot because I would have been in that seat all day listing all the “problem areas” for the rest of my body, and that’s after going from a size 16 to a 6 over the last year or so. Surprise! I’ve got some image issues I’m working through, friends. Anyone else with me on this?
Stepping past my body image baggage, an intriguing idea occurred to me. What if there was a way for a picture to be drawn of how I view my whole self? A sort of spiritual-ideological snapshot. What words would I use to describe myself, my relationships with others, ethics, priorities, passions, etc.? And, if I take this a step farther, how would that image be transformed if the second sketch was from a description given by God, my Creator?
Now I’m confronted with the loaded question, who am I? On paper, as I somewhat painfully realized filling out an application recently, I’m not that impressive. No extra letters after my name, no crazy accolades, no valuable connections. Describing myself is also difficult because I feel convicted to be transparent , but I’m also totally tempted to add a vintage filter to soften reality for a more presentable, Instagram-worthy snapshot. I don’t think I can justly explain the love, discouragement, joy, chaos, peace, anxiety, and passion I paradoxically experience in varying degrees daily in the many roles I play. Some days I’m not even sure I could accurately describe my true self that abides somewhere deep inside, concealed between the titles: wife, mom, cook, teacher, counselor, chauffeur, housekeeper, friend… I feel I need someone to constantly remind me of Aiblileen’s encouraging words in Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.”
Fortunately, I find myself overflowing with gratitude for God’s Word; in the midst of my mind’s muddling I know I have somewhere to turn for truth and perspective to pierce the haze. (I will repeat the message to anyone who will listen: everything we need to know to live purposeful lives marked by love and filled with hope can be found in the Bible.) So, after producing that dismal and myopic caricature of how I see myself, I’m looking forward to digging in to discover what God has to say.
It turns out He has quite a lot to say on the subject. Those who believe that Christ has fully ransomed their lives through His death, God calls: His child (Jn 1:12), friend (Jn 15:15), justified and redeemed (Rom 3:24), set free (Rom 8:2), heir (Rom 8:17), saint (1Cor 1:2), temple (1Cor 6:19), new creature (2Cor 5:17), blessed (Eph 1:3), chosen (Eph 1:4), alive (Eph 2:4), citizen of Heaven (Phil 3:20), beloved (Col 3:12), and the list goes on! He absolutely raves about us without placing any conditions on His love, other than just believing Him (see 1Jn 4:10).
In the very beginning He tells us that we are made in His image (Gen 1:26). I don’t have nearly enough time, or theological prowess, to go fully into who God tells us He is and how He reveals Himself as Father, Son, and Spirit. Based on the sum of my research and personal experience though, my heart cries out that the common denominator among His attributes is that He is love.
“And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us, God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:14-16
Here in a beautiful and mysterious way we are linked in love. We bear His image and He dwells in us. We have dignity and value because we belong to Him. There is no need for me to try to impress Him with my accomplishments. He loves me right where I’m at. He died for me not after I had sought His approval, but before, when I was my weakest and most wretchedly sinful.
You might not realize it from my descriptions of myself, but, as well as struggling with an overly low view of myself, in a great dichotomy of the soul I also have issues with pride. God has gifted me in ways to serve Him that I sometimes attempt to claim as my own merit. I’ve started to combat this by speaking out loud how I feel about myself. It helps me to hear just how ridiculous I sound. After a particularly great night at Bible study, where I’ve been blessed to see the Lord expanding the ministry, I was having a conversation with myself in the car on the drive home. (I’m not the only one who does that, right?) I felt myself begin to slip from acceptable pride in working within the Lord’s power to praise over my own ability, so I shouted out, “I’m awesome!” I laughed at my hypocrisy, and then in the dark stillness of my quiet, kid-less car I felt Him reply, “YES YOU ARE.” It took everything in me to choke back the tears and keep driving.
I think I’m weak, He thinks I’m awesome. I have body image issues, He thinks I’m awesome. I wear myself out striving for a gold star for the day, He thinks I’m awesome. I screw up and give in to temptation, he thinks I’m awesome. I feel overwhelmingly under qualified, HE THINKS I’M AWESOME. His feelings for me are not based on my feelings for me. I’m going to work on internalizing that so that my self-described portrait can begin to reflect more of my true self and less of my insecurities. I want my perception of me to look like His perspective. And when He describes my portrait, it looks just like Jesus. Lord, give me eyes to see what you see in me!
How do you struggle with perspective on yourself? What has helped you to gain a more clear picture of your true identity?
I totally have similar car conversations.
I totally have the same feelings you do towards yourself. I know what the bible says , but realizing and accepting “I am who He says I am” is the difficult part. When the enemy attracts my identity, I go to some verses I wrote down that affirms how God views me. I read these verses aloud, declaring and clàiming these truths. There is no one on Earth Or in heaven who will ever or can ever love me like he does! Thank Jesus for that!
Haha! Thanks Beck, always nice to know it’s not just me! 😉
Identity is definitely an interesting thing. More and more, I feel like we are all striving to figure out (and accept) who we are, although, granted, some are further along in that process than others.
Personally, the older I get, the more I realize how much I don’t know, not in regards to facts or figures, but rather about myself and where I will end up ten years from now. However, instead of stressing about it to the point of asphyxiation, I’m choosing to have faith that everything will work itself out as long as I work hard and stay true to myself.
Thanks for sharing! It’s always interesting to see how people can approach similar challenges from entirely different viewpoints.
I agree, seeking to know our true self is vital as it affects every facet of our interactions with the world around us. I’m blessed by your honesty about your journey and your open mind toward mine.
One of the many benefits I’ve experienced in following Christ is that He’s good to His word. In Matthew 11:28-30 He says, “Come to me, all 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.” I am so thankful I have access to this kind of care for my anxieties and unrest about what life could look like in ten years and beyond! I’m also assured in Jeremiah 29:11 that He knows the plans He has for me, and in Romans 8:28 that, “…for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” I’m so thankful to have these assurances to rest in and the freedom it gives me to live today without worry for tomorrow. Also, the great meaning it gives my daily work as I trust it will serve a lasting purpose.
I appreciate your feedback and checking out the blog! Praying the Lord would reveal Himself to you as you seek to know yourself in truth.
Wow! Beautiful Aleah
Thanks Anonymous! 😉 I know for a fact the Lord thinks you’re awesome, whoever you are!