My heart skipped a beat at the sight of the beautiful sign—not beautiful in an aesthetic sense, but beautiful because of one magical phrase: FRECKLES AND BEAUTY MARKS REMOVED. To my eager eyes, those words seemed written in silver and edged in gold, for they held a promise of freedom from the thing I had always hated most about myself.
Things, actually—seven of them, dark enough to pass for careless spatters of ink by a Creator too busy to notice His mistake. Since I had never seen so many dark “beauty marks” (who invented that cruel term?) on anyone else, the spots had made me feel singularly unattractive. Now I could put all that in the past.
Excitedly I neared the building, trying not to breathe too fast or seem too eager. When I read the rest of the sign, however, I came to a near stop. The versatile plastic surgery catered to those unfortunate enough to have been born with any of an assortment of physical imperfections, yet fortunate enough to have the financial means to correct them.
All my physical flaws flashed in my mind. My large eyes, strong nose, and ample mouth fight for prominence on a face that is neither oval nor square, thanks to an equally pronounced forehead. My long arms and slender torso are paired oddly with a thick-hipped lower half. I wavered. What would this crafter of human masterpieces think of imperfect me?
The thought of getting at least a little closer to the ideal forced me up the polished cobalt-blue stairs and into a space that was at once delicate and prepossessing. In a waiting room softly lit in blue, a large number of blemish-free plants rose and bloomed without restraint. Of course, I thought. Here, even the plants are perfect.
I stammered a request to see the doctor, gesturing awkwardly in the general direction of my spots. The lovely spa attendant, slim and perfectin cobalt blue, rushed away, and in less than a minute the doctor himself emerged and whisked me into his office. Ineloquently I managed to make him understand that I needed the spots gone. Could it be done?
When the good doctor put on his magnifying glass to take a closer look, his prognosis faded from the initial confident, “Of course, of course!” to a troubled gaze that lasted longer than it should have. His conclusion: The procedure was difficult, and a good outcome impossible. The spots were there to stay!
I felt my euphoria drain away like air from a punctured tire.
The doctor sat down. For the first time, I looked at his eyes. Then, I looked into them, and what I saw surprised me. I saw regret, but not pity; weariness, but not despair. As he pronounced his sentence—“This is what your parents’ genes have given you”—his eyes pleaded, “Accept the way God made you.” The weariness, I realized, was the result of years of nipping, tucking, removing, lengthening, shortening, and straightening what God had created for those who thought they knew better.
Strangely, I felt hope rekindle.
As I walked down the shining cobalt stairs and into the street, I wondered how many times those eyes had pled with others, only to be rejected or go unnoticed. This time, thankfully, the believer in him had linked with the faith in me and helped me accept the unacceptable.
I’m still not perfect, but now I don’t have to be. For that I thank the tired, pleading gaze of an old artist who thought I was beautiful enough the way God had made me.
Lives that turn out to be less than perfect can cause us just as much anguish as our imperfect bodies do. When a divorce, accident, demotion, or other unexpected crisis shatters our hope of an idyllic future, it can be disheartening. But if we can trust that we are beautiful because God made us, why not also trust that our lives can be beautiful because He loves us?
God doesn’t pick picture-perfect people to be His examples. “God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are.”1 So lift up that chin and “boast in [your] infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon [you].”2 He will make your imperfect life beautiful, too, if you let Him.
One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.—Franklin Thomas