This is Elizabeth. I've written about her before. She's one of the reasons I chose to live in Kenya. I love her as a sister and as a friend. She looks to me for wisdom and guidance (which I have none) and I look to her for courage and tenacity. God made my friend very beautiful both inside and out. If only she could see her beauty the way God does, and the way I do.
Every time I attempt to take a picture of Elizabeth, she quickly turns her head away from the camera. For every photo I have with her, there are 5 others where she is faced away from the camera. Yesterday, as we were sitting and talking, a fair-skinned African woman dressed in high-heels and a business suit walked by, and Elizabeth said "how can I look like her?" Assuming she was talking about the clothes, I said we could go shopping and "play dress up" one day. She responded, "No, not the clothes. Her skin. How can I make my skin like that?"
My heart sank. I looked across at this beautiful, vibrant young lady, and felt sad that she could not see how beautiful she was. This girl has a smile that lights up an entire room. A tall, slender physique that models would die to have. But most importantly a heart full of Jesus and full of love for others. "You're beautiful." I said. "Just the way you are. Don't you know you're fearfully and wonderfully made?"
She nodded, but I could tell she wasn't agreeing with me.
"You know you could be a model." I continued.
"Me, really? No one has ever called me beautiful. Why do you say that?" she asked in shock.
"Because it's true. Your creator made you unique and all of His creations are beautiful. You can't correct a masterpiece after the creator has finished his work. We are The Lord's masterpieces."
I small smile graced her face, as she thought of herself as a masterpiece from the greatest artist.
This reminded me of the influence of culture on our perception and stereotypes of beauty. And how those perceptions can travel overseas and across continents. I'm reminded myself of all the times I wished I were thinner, or my hair longer, or my skin lighter.
"No!" I hear God calling, "I formed you in my image and you are fearfully and wonderfully and beautifully made." I think of the deep blue oceans that God created, beautiful. The Grand Canyon reflecting hues of every color, beautiful. The rainbow spread across a rainy sky, beautiful. A summer sunset on the Mississippi River, beautiful. A tropical waterfall pouring into a blue abyss, beautiful. A great artist never makes any mistakes. Each creation unique, but crafted with the same intensity and effort. Each creation singing of the creator. Beautiful He made us. Beautiful we are.