By Michele Cushatt─
Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made (Isaiah 43:7, NIV).
Friend to Friend
I cringe every time I see it. My first-grade school photo. Dorothy Hamill haircut. Awkward 1970s fashion. Slouchy shoulders, goofy grin. And a gap between my two front teeth as wide as Moses’ parted Red Sea.
Somebody save me.
I always hated that gap. Lauren Hutton made it look sexy. I made it look like an unfortunate genetic accident. For two entire school years that photo bothered my six-year-old self. So much so that I refused to smile in my third- and fourth-grade photos.
I inherited my toothy space. Call it a genetic gift, passed down from my mother’s side of the family, along with a wide and sturdy Nebraska-farmer physique. Yay me.
But unlike the Nebraska hips, which I didn’t resent until much later, I hated my teeth from the start. Other six-year-olds sported teeth that touched. Mine had to send postcards to each other. I tried to squish them together with my fingers to no avail. Mom tried to convince me the gap made me unique. I didn’t want to be unique. I wanted to be normal.
That was merely the beginning of a personal critique that continues to this day. Imagine me, clipboard in hand, constantly scrutinizing my reflection.
Turned-up nose? Check. Wrinkles and flabby granny arms? Check, check. Gray hair, spider veins, and stretch marks? Lord, have mercy. Somebody give me a fresh pen. Check, check, and check.
When it comes to my appearance, there is little I celebrate and too much I denigrate. But if my little girl came up to me and started the same type of clipboard-carrying critique, I’d launch into a world-class lecture detailing all the reasons why she is beautiful and wonderful and valuable exactly as she is.
Why can’t I do the same for myself?
Because I’ve lost sight of how I was formed. In my effort to be like everyone else, I’ve lost sight of what makes me one of a kind. Just as there’s a painter behind every painting and a poet behind every poem, an artistic expertise forged every one of us. And the best artists know that variation lends creativity its value. It isn’t the common that attracts us but the uncommon.
Years ago, long before his explosive success, my parents became fans of artist Terry Redlin. They loved his outdoor wildlife scenes, the way he brought nature alive with color and illumination. So one day they picked up a Terry Redlin print. But not just any print. A numbered print—one of a limited edition of original paintings. Replicas of that painting exist, but none exactly like theirs. Theirs includes variations not found in the replicas, unique brush strokes that lend originality to their particular piece of art.
What if you and I started to see our variations the same way? What if, rather than working so hard to become a mass-produced replica, we trusted the value in the unique form we already have?
What if your curly hair is actually like a numbered print?
What if that birthmark or those freckles you try to hide are like a signature?
What if my cavernous front teeth are like an artist’s hidden representation?
In Ephesians 2:10, Paul said, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We are not mass-produced. We’ve been designed by an expert, shaped and formed by hands with far more skill than our own.
Numbered prints. Each one different from all the others. Each one bearing the name of the Artist. Gap teeth and all.
Dear Lord, I often struggle to see my uniqueness as a one-of-a-kind beauty. I look at the many flaws and variations and want desperately to be someone other than who I am. And yet, you formed me by design, and you love what you have made. Open my eyes to see what you see. Help me to find beauty where before I missed it. And help me to embrace and give thanks for the artistic work you’ve done in my one-of-a-kind life.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Today, when you catch your reflection in a mirror or window, refuse the temptation to scrutinize and criticize. Instead, give thanks for the marvelous work of God’s artistic hand.
More from the Girlfriends
It’s here! Michele’s new book, I Am: A 60-day Journey To Knowing Who You Are Because of Who He Is, is now available. If you’re tired of doubting your worth and feeling exhausted from all the effort at being “enough,” this journey may finally deliver the peace you crave. For short, inspirational devotional messages delivered right to your inbox, check out Michele’s FREE I Am Video Experience.