This moment. When I found myself asking - really asking - if I believed God loves me and sees me as beautiful.
I punched open my garage door to flat morning air. Gray. Overcast. The kind of sky that tells you to go back inside. But I'd committed to this walk, so off I went in my baggy sweat shorts and striped tank top. A frayed "Waffle House Regular" baseball cap covered my not-yet-washed hair. I was a vision for sure.
Pumping my arms and angling my hips in my best speed-walk-look-like-a-dork posture, I took off down my street toward the entrance to the open space behind our house.
Ahead, a biker approached, slowing to make his own way around the dogs, which were now some distance in front of me. As he stood to pedal back to pace, covering the ground between us, our eyes met. Though we both wore dark glasses, I could tell he was looking straight at me, but from behind the safety of my shades, I didn't mind. He smiled and offered a quick, decisive nod. A bodily wink. Just as his bike passed me, he wolf-whistled and spoke: "Hello, beautiful."
Who was he talking to? I looked quickly to my right and left. No one. But oh-he couldn't have meant me! Was he kidding? A sideways insult? Or maybe he was a creepy weirdo and would return to pounce!
I forced myself not to turn around fully to check him out, not to flinch, not to react. Danger! I counted one-one-thou- sand . . . two-one-thousand . . . three-one-thousand . . . up to five, then sneaked a peek over my shoulder. The biker was way down the path, his legs working rhythmically, putting more and more distance between us. I was utterly safe. So why was I so on edge? Why did my heart pound still?
"Hello, beautiful." Intentionally-now that I knew he was gone-I considered the meaning of such an utterance. He said I was beautiful. Me. Elisa. Ha! He couldn't see beneath my Waffle House hat to my unwashed hair. Behind my sunglasses to my tired and unmade eyes. Beneath my external to my grouchy and ungrateful heart. More to the point, within the walls of my being to my insecure soul. He couldn't see the ugly.
Yet he uttered these words to me. "Hello, beautiful." I found myself juggling them like hot potatoes-flinging them hand to hand, looking for a better place to set them, some spot more deserving than me.
A thought trickled through. Just a word: receive.
I listened,receptively,again. "Hello, beautiful." The greeting lingered, like butter on one of those steaming potatoes. The words dripped down the walls of my mind, working into my mood, staining the surface of my eyes so that my vision blurred just a bit in a lovely yellow hue. Everything looked so much prettier that way: glowing and happy.
Running the tongue of my soul over the syllables, I mouthed the vowels and the consonants. They moistened. I swallowed. An ooze gave way and flowed through me. "Hello, beautiful."
They seemed true. Yet in the very next moment, ridiculous. Receive.
Why was it so hard for me to believe that someone thought I was beautiful? No, go further-why is it so hard to fathom that I am beautiful?
Because I'm just like 96 percent of the world's women who don't see themselves as beautiful. Yep, that's right: only 4 percent of women around the world consider themselves beautiful.* That's a stunning number!
Hello? What's the matter with us? What's the deal with how we see ourselves-or more to the point, how we see the One who made us and how we think he sees us?
Beauty. Maybe we're messed up in how we're defining beauty. In my book,Hello, Beauty Full, we'll explore a whole new glossary on the term and how we do fit such a description. But for now, can I suggest that the definition of beauty we need to embrace is best captured not in some full-lipped, slender-figured-with-bumps-in-just- the-right-places, young-and-gorgeous-on-the-outside mirrored image but rather in how God made us-you and me-in his image? We are "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14). Inside. Outside. Upside. Downside. All sides. Beauty-real beauty-is defined as God defines it: how he sees us and feels about us because of Jesus.
Full. And maybe, too, we interpret the full part of beautiful as "just a bit." An eense. We put only a toe into the bath of beauty we possess, as if we'll melt, or freeze frigid and break. God offers more than a toe. He invites us to splash fullin the splendor of abundance.
Hello. Beauty. Full.
Elisa Morgan's newest book, Hello, Beauty Full, will be released September 29 and is available for pre-order. Her recent book, The Beauty of Broken, has offered encouragement to thousands. She is the cohost of Discover the Word and a regular speaker at events around the country.
* "Dove Real Beauty Sketches," Dove, http://realbeautysketches.dove.us