(Photo art courtesy of ICON Media Group)
Excerpted from “When Strivings Cease” by Ruth Chou Simons (Copyright 2021). Used with permission from Thomas Nelson. an imprint of Thomas Nelson and HarperCollins Christian Publishing Inc. http://www.thomasnelson.com.
Until my forties, I struggled consistently to like my face. I remember when Ashlee Simpson undoubtedly altered her nose and I was simultaneously horrified and a little envious. Or when it became a thing for Asian women to have eyelid surgery or use eyelid tape to solve the “problem” of a monolid. And then there was me—with one hooded eye and one double-lidded eye.
I don’t know exactly when or how it was that an Asian American girl with mismatched lids, silky, jet-black hair, and naturally tanned unblemished skin started thinking herself completely inadequate because she didn’t have blonde hair, hazel eyes, and a button nose. Was it when she was told her face was round “like a clock”? Or that her nose was “flat”? Or when her eyes were called “slits”? Or when she was told she has no eyelashes? Or maybe it was when no makeup instruction, foundation colors, or beauty books ever applied to someone who looked like her—at least not in the early nineties.
I wasn’t born doubting the way God constructed my facial features. I saw myself differently because there was an ongoing loop of lies serving as the soundtrack of my youth.
“She’s so pretty she doesn’t even look Chinese.” These words weren’t meant to be hurtful; they were simply spoken by someone from a passing generation and a different perspective. But they hurt me as a young woman still trying to feel comfortable in her own skin.
Lies don’t have to attack every area of our lives to be effective; they need only chip away at what we haven’t settled once and for all.
Let’s talk about the lies we tell ourselves—because here’s where the rubber meets the road with our grace-not-striving, faith-not-works, amazing-God-instead-of-amazing-me journey.
Let’s talk about all the ways we can put a bookmark in a book like this, close it, and walk away chewing on how we want to be realigned with what really makes us pleasing to God but then, by the time we’ve answered a few urgent text messages, checked Instagram a few times, and finished loading the dishwasher, find ourselves forgetful and returning to the same old operating system of answering our sense of lack with prove-I-am-enough-ness.
I want to show you how I revisit and rehearse the benefits of grace when my natural, sinful self is ready to buy into the next lie I want to believe. In case you’ve missed this, I want to restate it here:
We are—in our sin nature—wired for self-improvement that depends on us, not God.
We are—in our sin nature—wired to fret over our own images instead of reflecting his.
We are—in our sin nature—wired to believe God’s holding out on us and needs us to look out for ourselves.
And we are—in our sin nature—wired to welcome the lie that we are beggars and not heirs in the kingdom of God.
Grace is the means by which God rewires our souls and redeems us from our “natural” inclinations. The temptation to believe lies is not the exception but the rule.
In the rolling waves of continual self-improvement, any lie about who we are or who God is only needs to find the tender places of “If?” and “Did God really say . . .?” to make a fearful striver out of any one of us.
So we need to sit up and pay attention to how Jesus answered Satan with what the Word of God says. Jesus, who came as the conduit of redeeming grace himself, opposed the lies of the Enemy with biblical truth. He didn’t mess around; he went straight to the defense of what God had already settled. And we must do the same.
Without the transforming grace of God, we would have no answer for the Accuser but our own feelings, our own track records, or our own confidence. We’d be tossed about in fear and doubt because, quite frankly, we just can’t outsmart him with our own resources. But by grace, through faith, our defense is Jesus Christ—we don’t answer for ourselves. While self-help teaches us to rely on ourselves, Jesus sets the example (even as God’s Son!) for us to anchor our hope and defense in the Word of God.