For Penelope and the Beast

For those who think they are the pig of the family, this message is for you.

For those who think they are hot snot, this message is for you.

You are not what you put on, you are not what you take off, you are not even what you look like, and you are definitely not what you think; you are what you give and what, or who, you live for.

If you give love, you are beautiful; if you give grace, you are beautiful; if you give hope, you are beautiful. If you live for Jesus Christ, your beauty surpasses time itself, but without Jesus in your life, whatever good you do is counted as filthy rags.

It is not what enters into the body that defiles a man, but what comes out of it. It’s not what you eat that defiles you, it’s what comes out of your mouth that defiles you. (Matthew 15:11) Though it may seem preposterous and absurd, especially in this world so fixated on outward beauty, true beauty is a verb and can only be achieved through the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ working in your life.

True beauty is not based upon outward appearance, but the outward evidence of an inward change; a life that bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

No one is born beautiful; for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) No one is perfect and without sin, not even one. (Romans 3:10) We are all in the same boat filled with ugly, disgusting people. Each of us needs to be washed, sanctified, and given life, but few are brave enough to step out of the boat and see what faith can do.

Social media sites like Instagram and Facebook make it easy to compare ourselves to someone else. But what you see on the screen is a mirage, a mask; not an autobiography. There is a living, breathing, human being behind that filter; they live in the same dirty, uncertain, and ever-changing world that you and I live in. They may have an outward beauty that gains them likes and follows, but unless they base their beauty and self-worth on more than just likes and follows, they are empty and hollow.

Put down the phone, turn off the TV, black out the screen, and sit in silence. Who are you when you have no filter to hide behind? Are you the Beast, so caught up in image and self-love that you miss true beauty standing right in front of you? Are you Penelope, so critical of yourself that you think no one could ever love you?

As for me, I have been both Penelope and the Beast.

Before I knew Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior, I was the Beast, and that was all I ever could be. (Ecclesiastes 3:18) There was nothing good in me; no light, no power to choose the right way. But God, in His love and tender mercy, looked upon me. He called me out of my sin and selfish pride. I answered His call and He drew me unto Himself. Now, I am held in His arms, no longer ugly on the inside, but washed and sanctified. He has clothed me with His righteousness and the stains of my past sins are gone. Yet, I must confess that I am not as beautiful as I wish to be. Sometimes, the Beast of sin comes out, and I must repent and cling to the grace of God once more. I am grateful that I serve a God Whose grace abounds beyond my mistakes and Whose Holy Spirit fire seeks to burn out the sin in me, but I must battle against that part of me on a daily basis. Just like Paul, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

Just like every imperfect person out there, living in an imperfect and ugly world, I stumble. And I more often stumble into the mentality of Penelope.

Penelope was born with a pig’s snout and pig ears.

Never did she think herself beautiful, and her parents never thought she was beautiful either; no one loved her for who she was, only for who they hoped she would be one day. Her parents tried to match her up with men of her same status, because they thought that, if only a man could love her, then her ugliness would melt away.

I am not exactly like Penelope.

I do not have a pig’s snout or pig ears. My parents love me for who I am. They have not exhausted their resources in trying to find a husband for me, but I, within myself, grow discouraged at times. When I am most vulnerable, I point out my flaws, and those parts of me that make me less desirable, but my Abba always lifts my face up to see His. In His eyes, I see the futility of pursuing outward beauty. In His eyes, I see who He has made me to be, and all other goals or desires are tossed to the side. The One Who loves me best has called me His beloved and refines me day by day. He does not simply love me for who I will become, but who He has already made me: redeemed, righteous, and holy. Any beauty in me, any good in me, is completely because the blood of Jesus Christ has washed me clean. There is no magic spell to take away my ugliness. No man can convince me that I am beautiful. Jesus has already washed me clean and I am priceless and precious in His sight.

I am not a pig, I am not a beast, I am not a silly girl, I am not an object; I am a daughter of the King. For that reason, I desire to live my life in a way that reflects my redemption and my inheritance; not fixated upon improving my outward appearance, but upon refining my heart and soul.

So, this is the encouragement and commission I offer to you (as well as to myself), whether you are the Beast, Penelope, or practically perfect in every way: live for Jesus, let Him refine and define you. Don’t get so caught up in physical appearance that you forget how precious you are, and how precious every soul is. Time is too short to worry about your height, your weight, or how symmetrical your face is. While pursuing Jesus and His glory, you can make wise choices and healthy choices for your earthly body, but your focus should be to glorify your King, not your figure or lack thereof.

Do you look like Jesus? When people see you and what you do, do they glorify Jesus or do they think He is a joke? The unsaved world will always notice appearance, and will be affected by how you look, so does your outward appearance distract from the glorious Gospel of grace or does it show the transformation power of God’s grace? In God’s sight, you are beautiful and precious, but don’t expect the world to know that or to agree.

Step out of the boat, ignore the mockers and those who say you are not good enough. Look to Jesus, and let Him tell you who you are and who you will become. The Beast will rise up, and even Penelope may slide in, but look up; Jesus is standing there, waiting for you to come to Him. Keep up the fight, remain steadfast in the faith. Reach out to the lost and hurting and allow friends to encourage you and lift you up. And don’t be afraid to admit when you are ugly. Sin will always be ugly and no makeup can cover it. Only the blood of God’s Holy Son can wash that ugly stain away and make you holy, and only grace can hold you when you stumble.

Serve Your King in humility and rest in His love; knowing that Jesus is more than enough.

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