Confessions of an Insecure Missionary
“Asia is good for the self esteem,” I wrote in my journal one day in Japan after yet another person told my teammate and I what beautiful girls we are. In China, giggling girls told me often how beautiful I was before asking to take a picture with me.
[pullquote width="300" float="left"]Just because I am a missionary does not mean I get to skip insecurity.[/pullquote]
At first I just laughed off these compliments assuming the phrase “you are beautiful” is taught in English class like it was taught in my Spanish class, a helpful phrase to pull out when you meet someone new.
But as I continued to meet people and hear the phrase, “you are beautiful” over and over again, I began to wonder, do I believe it? Do I believe I am beautiful?
I never thought of myself as an insecure woman. I grew up in a safe, wonderful home with incredibly loving parents and a father who told me I was beautiful. But as I grew up and became more exposed to the American culture of beauty, I began to doubt myself.
I grew up in the church. I know the right answers. God created each of us unique and beautiful. It does not matter what others say, only what God says about us. These are all true, but sometimes this is not comforting when you are battling with your reflection in the mirror.
One of the most amazing things about traveling is the ability to have your view of the world changed and expanded. I have seen some of the most beautiful sites in the world this year, but I have also experienced some of the most heart-breaking stories the world has to offer.
One thing that has changed for me is the way I see beauty.
"Do not let your adornment be merely outward - arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel - rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." -1 Peter 3:3-4
When I think of the most beautiful people in the world, I think of Tina, a girl with cerebral palsy who cannot speak with words, but has a smile that speaks volumes.
I think of little girls in Thailand, rescued from the horrific life of sex trafficking, whose smiles are brighter than the lanterns that light up the Thai sky.
I think of a grandmother in Bulgaria whose wrinkles speak of a hard life filled with toil and loss, but also love - wrinkled hands that held children and grandchildren, and blue eyes that fill with tears at the thought of a husband who had been lost.
We as women have the ability to stand for beauty in an incredible way. When we call things beautiful, we draw attention to the value they have.
I am living out of a backpack. I have limited wardrobe options, my clothes do not always smell great, and I have dreams about American showers with their hot steam and great water pressure. Sometimes, I do not feel beautiful. Sometimes, I have a really hard time believing that I am beautiful. Just because I am a missionary does not mean I get to skip insecurity.
But because I am a missionary, I have an incredible chance to look for beauty in the forgotten places of the world. And in looking for beauty in some of the most ugly places in the world, I have also found beauty in myself.
I know I am beautiful, not because some fashion magazine tells me it is true, but because God says it and I believe it.
When I hear people all over the world telling me that I am beautiful, I hear my heavenly Father speaking the words to me as well: “You are beautiful.”
Have you allowed your view of beauty to be redefined by culture? In what ways can you point out beauty in God’s creation and in yourself?
Photos courtesy of Amanda Goodroe