The first time I saw Katherine, I was captivated. She was twenty-something, blonde, ever-perfect smile and a gregarious spirit. It was impossible not to like her. She and her husband, Jay, were friends of our 20-something son and daughter-in-law, and we learned more about her through our visits to the Los Angeles church where they all attended. Katherine was a model, an actress, and a passionate spokesperson for mission causes through their church.
Six months after her first child was born and three weeks before her husband’s graduation from law school, Katherine had a massive stroke. Her chances of survival were slim; however, if she did make it through surgery, her doctors stressed, she would likely spend the rest of her life in a vegetative state. Katherine miraculously made it through a 16-hour procedure and had retained a small portion of her original function. There was substantial paralysis on her right side. Her face was contorted, her limbs were twisted; she could not speak or swallow. In spite of all of her impairments, she was still cognizant and was able to communicate in the most basic level. Her survival and recovery have been miraculous, even as reported by her doctors and therapists—and she is careful to give God the credit for her recovery. However, one of the tragedies is that when I, and perhaps others, heard the news of her stroke and saw before-and-after pictures, the first response was “How sad. She was so beautiful.” In Katherine and Jay’s book Hope Heals, Katherine writes about the first time she looked in the mirror after the stroke. “I was horrified by the ghastly look of frailty and death. I was beyond sad. I never thought I was overly focused on my appearance, not any more than your typical Southern gal. But this was shocking. Not only did I not feel beautiful; I didn’t even recognize myself.” Read more about Katherine’s journey in the book and on her website www.hopeheals.com.
Lauren Scruggs Kennedy was a fashion model and journalist. She was blonde, young, and beautiful. Then in December 2011, she went up in a family friend’s small plane. After the ride over her home city of Dallas to view Christmas lights, she somehow walked into the spinning propeller of the plane. The propeller sliced her skull, her left eye and cheek, her left shoulder and arm. Her eye had to be removed and her arm could not be restored. Though Lauren and her family were happy that she was alive, the scars the accident left behind, physical and emotional, were devastating. In one of her books Your Beautiful Heart: 31 Reflections on Love, Faith, Friendship, and Becoming a Girl Who Shines, Lauren responds to her sense of worth before the accident. “When I got home from the hospital I would cry a lot and it was hard to look in the mirror. Before the accident, I would get a lot of attention for the way I looked, so I held a lot of my identity there.”
Her journey to recovery is amazing. Surgery, therapy, and prosthetics have made Lauren look “normal,” but through her ordeal she has new insights into a woman’s sense of worth.
Every day, you and I are bombarded from multiple directions by a giant beauty lie. This false message often comes at us from Hollywood’s movie reels and New York’s editorial pages, sure—but it wouldn’t be fair to blame the entertainment industry alone. We hear the lie being spoken from the mouths of our friends, our peers, and sometimes even our parents. And we hear it whispered from the quiet and secret places in our own individual hearts, too. Here is the lie: A certain kind of physical appearance equals beauty.
I would add to this lie that beauty equals worth.
STOP: Try to recall some of the labels placed upon you as a child or teenager that stuck with you through the years. The labels may be seemingly positive: pretty, cute, or pleasant. Others may have been negative: ugly, plain, or offensive. These labels may have been spoken directly to you or you may have overheard or discerned the implications about your appearance.
LIE •I was “born with it” therefore I must maintain and use my looks for gain since I have no other element of worth.
•I am not as pretty as other girls so my looks limit my prospects and significance to my world.
TRUTH: 2 Corinthians 10: 3-6 “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not wage battle according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying arguments and all arrogance raised against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.” (NASB)7i