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Monday, January 13, 2014

The healing power of art, friendship, and Truth


One of the biggest blessings in my art journaling journey has been to see how many inner wounds it has healed. I'm doing a number of different art journal projects, and one of the most daunting things has been that a lot of the challenges ask you to do some kind of self-portrait.

I'm going to be honest here. I HATE pictures of myself. I'm not like some people, who completely shun the camera, because I have relatives who are like that, and it makes me sad that I have no pictures of them. But still, there's a tiny part of me that dies inside when I'm asked to be in a picture. When I see a picture of me, I see the awful labels that have followed me around for years- the ugly girl who was bullied and made fun of. I hear the voices that tell me I'm not good enough and point out all of my flaws. And I think, "I'm such a phoney for all the positive self talk I give myself about my appearance."

So when I'm asked to take a picture of myself and put it in a journal that's all about celebrating my creativity, I think, "why am I torturing myself?" Which means I put off the task as long as possible until I'm finally forced to do it because I can't allow myself to skip a journal exercise.

Today I had coffee with my friend Niki. She does not know I was struggling with this, and yet, she said something that rocked my world in terms of how I viewed my picture. She said something along the lines of, "living under Christ, we are already God's beloved. He doesn't look at us and see sinners, He sees people He dearly loves." I knew those words to be true. But as I tossed them about in my mind, I realized that as much as I say I believe that, I don't live that in my own life. If I really believed that God looked at me as His beloved, JUST AS I AM, then why do I look at myself with labels that are not true? I've worked so hard to get past the body image lies, but as much time as I spend telling myself what I think should be the truth, the old lies creep in.

When I got home, I decided to do the selfie exercise. As soon as I printed the picture, I immediately started picking out the flaws- my double chin because I don't know how to hold my head right, the hormonal acne, the gray hairs, the awkward smile. I glued my picture down, and I wanted to cry. But then I remembered Niki's words, and I thought, "all those things I hate, God loves."  Before I could stop myself, I took a Sharpie, and wrote right across my forehead, "beloved." I decorated my picture by decoupaging tissue paper around it. I like that look, and I decided that it reminds me of stained glass, which is something you find in the most beautiful of cathedrals- God's holy places. I am a holy temple of God. But then I had to take it a step further. I wrote down all the labels GOD has given me. All the beautiful, wonderful things that HE has called me. I surrounded myself with truth.

I look at that picture now, and I think, "wow, I'm really pretty." I don't feel the shame I typically feel when I see a picture of myself. I see me. I see the person that God made. And I think she's lovely. I am lovely.

I don't make art because I have aspirations of being a great artist. Most people are not going to look at the art I make and think I have amazing talent. But that's not the point. In my art, I've found a way to take the wounds of the past, combine them with the beautiful words of truth from my friends, and find healing. I look through some of my other selfie projects, and I like the girl I see. She may not be perfect, but that's okay. God looks down on her - on me- and sees someone He adores.

What do you see when you see pictures of yourself? Do you see someone who is beautiful and beloved? If not, I encourage you to let God into that place. Take your picture. Print it out. Claim God's truth over your image. You are so valuable to God.

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