You see, I immediately thought of the last picture that I had taken with my friend. In that picture, she looked just as she did in this recent photo--absolutely perfect. I, on the other hand, looked like something the dog had just dug up in the yard. My clothes were bunched, giving me an overweight, frumpy appearance. My hair, while decently arranged, was much in need of a good coloring. (Yes, I dye my hair. Otherwise, it is white!) My skin was pale and pasty. My eyes had dark circles and droopy bags under them. My smile seemed forced. The contrast between the two of us was unmistakable. Once again, my friend looked alive and vibrant. As for me, I looked like I had died several days before (maybe a bit like Lazarus). It's a horrible picture (of me anyway), and I can't bear to look at it.
Unfortunately, other recent photos of me reveal the same corpse-like appearance. I look tired when I face the mirror each morning, but these pictures go far beyond tired. I look downright exhausted and a good bit overweight! In fact, it's time for me to get some new photos made for my author page and marketing materials, but I can't seem to talk myself into it. I know three very talented photographers who would do the photo shoot for free, but I don't know if I could bear to look at the pictures. I can't stand seeing myself looking like the living dead. Not only does it stir up self-pity, but it fills my heart and mind with envy. "Why can't I look like my friend? Why can't I look so happy and alive? Why do I look like death warmed over? It's not fair!"
Interestingly enough, after my weekend feelings of envy (for which I have already repented to the Lord), my morning devotions today were on the topic of. . . guess what. . . .yup, envy! During that time, the Lord helped me to realize that envy was just a form of disappointment, but it was disappointment that was being mishandled. Basically, my envy this weekend was my way of saying, "God, you messed up. Why didn't you make me better? You did it for my friend. What about me? I'm so disappointed in you, and I'm going to pout about it and feel sorry for myself." Spiritually mature, huh?
The thing is that I didn't want to be envious of my friend. I'm happy that she's happy. I'm glad she can still smile and go like crazy despite her physical ailments. I'm thrilled to see that she's just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside. I didn't mean to envy her. It just sort of happened, but the problem came about when I realized what was happening and didn't stop myself. I allowed the feelings to linger and brew. And before long, I felt as weary and worn as I looked in that picture with my friend. I was allowing my envy over someone's outer beauty to destroy my own inner beauty. It was being tainted by my own jealousy, disappointment and bitterness.
After reading through my devotions this morning and asking the Lord to forgive me for my sin and bad attitude, I made myself stare into the bathroom mirror. I examined my reflection, forcing myself to focus on the areas that I found the most pleasing to my own sight (for example, my green eyes). Then I repeated over and over again, "I am fearfully and wonderfully made." But I didn't just say it with my mouth. I allowed the words to sink down into my soul. I needed to feel it, and before long, I was able to walk away from the mirror, leaving both pride and envy behind.
Do you realize that you are also fearfully and wonderfully made? Every part of you has been perfectly designed by God. If you are saved, then you are His child, and He loves you just as you are. Sure, He wants us to improve where we can. He longs for us to be more like Him. He urges us to do what we can to maintain good health so that we can serve Him better. But then, when we've done all we can do, it's time to be still and watch Him work the miracle.
When I saw that picture of my friend, my thoughts were of envy and anger toward God that He had messed up. In the midst of that reaction, I failed to realize that perhaps my friend looks more alive and vibrant than I do because she's doing more to take care of herself than I am. I wasn't willing to take the blame, so I shifted it elsewhere. And the cycle began!
Do me a favor. Don't let it begin again with you. Do what God has asked you to do. Do your best, and leave the rest up to Him. And while you're working, keep in mind that God is more interested in inner beauty than outer appearances. If you have both, good for you. But if you can only work on one, focus on the inner. It may not show up in photographs, but I guarantee you, it's noticeable in God's eyes. What else matters?
Okay, everyone, say "cheese!"
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones. - Proverbs 14:30