by Rachel AZ Cavanaugh
“Whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones…” Matthew 23:27
As silly as it sounds, every time I paint my nails I’m reminded of the horrific events that took place in the spring of 2012. One of my best friends left her apartment, checked into a hotel and consumed an entire bottle of 500mg Extra-Strength Excedrin, another of Tylenol and a 2-liter energy drink. When we found her, she was hardly responsive and her skin had green undertones. As tears were falling from her face faster than her sleeves could catch them, my other friend, Cara, called an ambulance.
I couldn’t even function. I just sat there in silence at the foot of the bed, blankly starring at my gorgeous friend’s near lifeless body. As I picked up her hand, I noticed her fingernail polish was chipped. Not knowing what else to do, I grabbed a bottle of polish and tried my best to paint her nails. Looking back on this, we all laugh at how stupid I was to paint her nails in such a time of absolute crisis. I still kick myself for doing something that was so entirely irrelevant to the situation.
You will be relieved to know and I am thrilled to report that after three days in the ICU, my friend survived and was released without any stomach or liver damage. God is sovereign. She is an incredible woman and has a jaw-dropping testimony nothing short of an amazing miracle.
As I was thinking back on all this the other day, I realized that I’ve been painting my nails in the midst of crisis for as long as I can remember. My coping mechanisms have always been to hold everything together. Be perfect. Or at least act and appear to be put together. Maybe, if I looked whole on the outside, something would transform on the inside to match. The more I struggled internally, the more I tightened the mask strings. But inside, beneath the image was always a little girl—and she was completely falling apart.
Image: An imitation of a person or thing; a representation, likeness, impression or conception of oneself; an illusion.
I learned at a young age that the world doesn’t care about how the girl in the pictures really feels. I quickly learned to have a positive outlook, stuff my emotions, and fight for a flawless reflection. But this was never a lasting identity, it was only an image. The more pain, loneliness, rejection and insecurity I felt; the more I strived to paint an inaccurate picture of a girl who had it all together.
Beneath the facade I had no idea who I was or where my value was found. I fought my hardest to maintain an image that had absolutely no relationship with reality. But the outside couldn’t fix what was happening inside.
We live in a world that applauds, endorses, and super glues on the masks. Our world worships images. We’ve learned by example to push the limits and see how far we will go to maintain the image we want others to see. We want people to view us superficially so they won’t look past the masks, or God forbid, stick around long enough to see how we really are.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:7
Thankfully, God doesn’t buy into “fake”. He isn’t fooled by facades, intimidated by masks, or takes us at our word when we say that we’re “doing great!” He sees past the act and speaks to our hearts. He sees us falling apart and breathes life into us. Like the woman with the alabaster jar, sitting at Jesus’ feet in the midst of her filth, mess, insecurity and pain. This kind of vulnerability pulls on His heart strings. He faithfully seeks us out to break off the things that hold us back, threatening to hold us captive.
“All of us then, reflect the glory of the Lord with uncovered faces.” –2 Corinthians 3:18
This kind of matchless beauty is so raw and undone it scares those who are still in chains. This reckless transparency with messy hair, mascara running, bent knees and a heart of flesh cannot be fabricated. It’s as real as they come. This absolute humility is so authentic it makes others uncomfortable. But it’s the imperfect that the Lord chooses to use. Our weakness allows Him to be our perfect strength.
He sees us. Fighting to be faithful, wrestling through motherhood, trying to parent perfectly, in yesterday’s topknot, with dried spit-up down our shirts. He begs us to leave the dishes and climb over the dirty piles of laundry. He beckons us to come away with Him. To sit at his feet. To rest in Him. To just be His daughter.
When your need for approval is fulfilled by what you do, how you parent, or imperfect people, you will always be left desiring more. I encourage you; Run to the One whose perfection isn’t painted on with brushes, designed by the fashion elite, studied in Ivy League classes, or worn as couture. He is simply perfect so we won’t have to be. He is the answer to our imperfection. The sooner we take off our masks and come face to face with who we’ve become, the sooner He can intervene and make us who we were born to be. It’s still a daily struggle to be real, but I’m learning how to walk in freedom of who He has created me to be.
His absolute security beckons me to be renewed. He loves me just as I am. Broken, hurting, confused, crumbling; real. And He desires to make me whole and lacking nothing.
So, which is more important to you—your outward persona or your inward well being? Don’t paint your nails while dying—it’s senseless.
“He said to me… ‘My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:9-10
(Originally posted on https://rachelaz.com/2015/01/21/polished-perfect/)