When Beautiful is Ugly

I stood in my kitchen, with steam rolling out of the skillet of sizzling and popping hamburger being browned. I looked out the window and thought about the sunshine flooding my driveway, my house – through the curtainless kitchen window, and my heart.

“You’ve changed Ryan since you’ve been married.”  The words rolled through my mind, like a spare tire wheeling through the mechanic’s garage. In both places a change was waiting to happen – a new tire for a needy car, a new thought for a muddled brain. A change.

“You have so much life and energy…what would we do without you?” More words. Affirmation that hugged my heart and wrapped its tendrils around my soul. It’s always nice to hear that you’re good at something.

“You do everything. You’re so involved.” Words spoken, by a friend, in a wistful moment. She thought my aspirations always succeeded and compared herself to me. In the moment I’d liked that. Now I think I’m really a better performer than I am a better achiever.

“Your house is always so clean. How do you work and keep it that way and do all those other things?”  More wistful words that lifted my perfectionist, over-achieving heart.

And with the steam rolling out of my browning hamburger, I thought and reflected.

She doesn’t hear me when I get controlling over finances.

Yes, I teach Kids’ Club but she only sees the one especially good lesson, not all the jumbled ones that don’t make sense.

She doesn’t see my house (apparently)  when the dishes are stacked high and the shelves are covered in dust and the decorations are strewn across the living room because I’m organizing. (for three days) 

She doesn’t see when I snap at my tutoring charge or when my heart of despair is wreathed in a masquerading smile  when I bring my student back to class.

She doesn’t see my bad lesson plans or hear my pathetic presentation at class.

She doesn’t see when I forget that the girls matter over the physical education class and I brush by one of them.  

She doesn’t see my heart at youth group – when my inward eyes roll sometimes at the insecure drama.  To make matters worse, she doesn’t see my own insecurities, so much like those youth girls, hidden behind the shambles of confidence and purpose.

When beautiful is ugly at its best, she doesn’t see.

And I tremble to know that the beauty that’s exalted is nothing more than weak efforts, last-minute ditches, and poor planning skills – all masked in a front that says: I can.

And I realize, with astounding clarity and focus, that I can’t. My best efforts fall short and there are so many things I can’t do anyways. And the things I can do, someone else can do better than me. And in my efforts to excel, I fail. I am trying in my own strength, doing for my own purposes, and exalted for ugliness that’s stuffed inside a sham of beauty.

The hamburger is really popping and sizzling now. Another wheel pushes through the mechanic’s garage.

I love you.

And I wonder how my husband can love such an earthen vessel…how God can take the time for such a clown. But I hear those three magical, powerful words being whispered in my ear.

And the wheel gets closer to the needy car and the light comes on in the muddled brain.

My best efforts might be ugly, but I am loved.

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