I have a rash on my face. An awful, red, itchy rash. All over my face, my neck, my chest and, as of this morning, my hands.
The medical explanation is an allergic reaction, possibly to poison ivy blowing around the park on a windy day. The treatment is a long list of prescriptions, sticky ointments and hand washing until my knuckles crack. But none of that really matters.
A few days ago, my husband and I had time for a quick dinner alone before he headed to work. On the way to our new favorite Mexican restaurant, I combed my hair and reapplied my makeup. By the time we arrived I felt kinda-sorta pretty.
But the first thing my husband said when we sat down in a corner booth was, “What’s wrong with your face?”
Now, he truly asked out of concern and had no idea that I’d been imagining him noticing my good hair day as we sat eating salty chips. And, he was right to be concerned. As I carefully touched my chin, I realized that spot I’d been mindlessly scratching earlier in the day was now flaky and bumpy and, yes, itching like crazy again.
As the night wore on, the rash spread over my jawline and up over my cheek. And by the time I woke up the next morning, my face was nearly covered with red, bumpy blemishes that were screaming to be scratched.
A not-so-quick visit to urgent care resulted in an inconveniently located shot, prescriptions and instructions not to touch the infected parts of my face. The doctor assured me that I was not contagious and should just enjoy myself at my daughter’s birthday party that afternoon.
Easier said than done! As my family began arriving for the party, it wasn’t the itching or the inflammation that bothered me so much. It was the humiliation of showing my face – my red, bumpy, ugly face.
I wished for a shirt that said, “Yes, I have a rash on my face. No, it is not contagious.” I longed for a mask or a veil or a shroud of any kind to cover myself. And I wanted to just hide in my room (and scratch) until everyone left.
Several days have passed since the party, and my face is still a wreck. My mom encouraged me to look on the bright side and be thankful I don’t have to go to an office looking like this. She’s completely right, but I still feel like a leper, avoiding eye contact and walking on the opposite side of the
street grocery store aisle.
Simply put, I feel ugly. I’ve tried joking my way around my feelings and acknowledging what a ridiculous situation this is and remembering that it’s temporary and not the end of the world. But what has nailed me in the chest every time I leave the house or catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror is this: I. Feel. Ugly.
Today, as I was wondering about the surprising strength of this reaction, I realized it stems from vanity and misplaced self-value. Immediately, Carly Simon began belting “You’re So Vain” in my head, taunting me and echoing those catchy words. The song might be stuck in my head for several hours now, but I’m thankful for the reminder that focusing on my appearance, my face, my beauty (or lack thereof) is never going to make me happy, rash or not.
I turned to the Word and was reminded that God sees our true, inner beauty – and that is really all that matters. No rash, no gray hairs, no wrinkles, no chubby or skinny parts can take away what He sees when He looks at His creation, His beloved.
Perhaps today your own face is blemished, your jeans feel too tight or your hair won’t lie flat. Take comfort in these words of truth and remember that you are beautiful in God’s eyes.
- The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b)
- So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
- Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30)
- Let your beauty not be external by the braiding of hair and wearing of gold jewelry – but the inner person of the heart, the lasting beauty of a gentle and tranquil spirit, which is precious in God’s sight. (1 Peter 3: 3-4)
Are you vain? Do you feel ugly? Do you know (do you? really?) that the God of the entire world thinks you (yes, you) are beautiful and lovely and, most importantly, lovable?