The year was 1992. I was all of 20 years old, having a chat with Patrick and some guy friends. The topics of discussion with these guys usually ended up including theology, politics... and girls, not necessarily in that order. Somehow in the course of our conversation, Olivia Newton-John was brought up. During the events of that summer, Olivia had been diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. The gorgeous singer and actress' body had been assaulted by a deadly disease, and her beauty had been altered because of it. My heart was heavy for her, and I wondered if she was struggling with the results of the operation, or if she was simply thankful to be alive and able to see her daughter Chloe grow up.
And then the guys, minus Patrick, opened their mouths. They didn't hold back their brutal honesty and unfiltered feelings.
"That's just gross. I will never be able to think of her in the same way again," was a paraphrase of the harsh reponse.
"That is so mean! She is still a beautiful woman... and a cancer survivor! I can't believe you would say that," I replied, my feathers obviously ruffled. I had to defend this sister.
"Ya, but it totally ruins my attraction to her," one of the guys countered.
Within the months that followed, I had some doctor's appointments of my own. You see, I was born with a "beauty mark" on my chest, a mole that had grown and changed in appearance and texture over the years. My mom had always kept tabs on it, knowing it could become cancerous at some point. Finally, it had peaked concern in a physician, and he recommended its removal.
He described the relatively simple procedure, and he described the effects. Because of the location of the mole, it wouldn't be an unnoticeable scar. It would initially be about an inch of stitches, but then it would stretch out with the weight of my breast as it healed.
Olivia came flooding back into my mind. Patrick and I were getting close to marriage, and all I would have to offer him was a damaged, scarred beauty. He would be repulsed and wouldn't want me anymore. Tears come unexpectedly and easily as I remember the feelings I wrestled with over 18 years ago.
Tenatively, I shared my troubled thoughts with the man who held my heart. We had always shared our struggles before, and I didn't want to keep this from him, especially since I felt it would be of such concern to him on our wedding night.
My love embraced me and reassured me with his calm, soothing voice. He couldn't believe I was so worried. He cared that I was alive, and no scar was going to affect his attraction to me or what he perceived about my beauty.
Patrick loves me. He sees beyond my many flaws to see a woman made in the image of God.
As much as the infommercials tell me that I can be flawless and airbrushed, toned and tanned, I am a flawed person. I am scarred for life. I am pear shaped. I have cellulite. The parenthesis around my mouth are becoming more pronounced and plentiful as I am fast approaching 40 next year.
I am flawed on the inside, too. I lose my temper. I have mean-spirited thoughts. I am impatient. I'm too sensitive. I make some poor decisions. I am prone to isolate myself. I'm selfish. Where does the list even end?
Yet, by the grace of God, I am being refined and renewed day by day. He is polishing my flaws so that I shine for Him. I want to reflect His image and His glory, so that when others look at me, they don't see my flaws, but a reflection of a flawless and beautiful Creator. A Creator who loves me and sees Jesus in me. He is my beauty.