My name has become vanilla latte. If you add the word ‘medium’ to the front and say it like a question, I will be there in two seconds flat.
At Kaldi’s Coffee Shop in downtown Kansas City, a barista called me by name. I looked up from my phone and slid it into my pocket so I could wrap my hand around the warm cup. The morning rain and gray clouds made me even more relieved to be inside. After taking my first sip of caffeine, I leaned back and gazed at the city scene. Cars and buses raced back and forth to the rhythm of lights, but I didn’t really notice. My eyes were drawn to the people.
Being in the city is like visiting an art gallery. You can sit anywhere and admire the breathing, moving masterpieces against the glass and steel background. I set my latte on the table. These people were unaware that I was watching them, yet each was so uniquely themselves and doing it so beautifully.
Maybe that’s why I don’t feel beautiful—because I am too aware of myself. Wasn’t it just that morning that I had changed my pants four times and spent 20 minutes straightening my hair only to put it in a ponytail because I still hated it? Everytime I walk by a mirror I can’t help but fearfully peek at my reflection. And here I am comparing myself to the majestic people of the city wondering, Why can’t I be beautiful too?
I’ll probably never fully understood the crazy art majors at school, but I do believe art is meant to be admired. It doesn’t have to be questioned and never needs an explanation. It shouldn’t be scrutinized, criticized, or mocked. And most importantly it never should be changed—it should just be. We don’t do that to art in a gallery or people in a city; funny that we do it to ourselves.
Art also doesn’t have an opinion of itself, but we do. The opinion you have of yourself makes all the difference because without a good one, you can’t make a difference. The deeper I look into myself, the deeper I doubt. The more I worry of myself, the less I think of others.
One of my favorite words is genuine. I want to have genuine beauty. But unlike art, maybe genuine beauty isn’t something you can see but something you feel. Something that makes everything and everyone around it beautiful too.
“So worry less! Don’t look at yourself so much! Don’t think about your appearance!” It sounds like an elementary equation, but I can’t figure it out. Maybe I’ll find the answer if I am tanner or when I buy better foundation. Maybe new clothes will solve the problem or a boy who whispers sweet compliments in my ear.
The people outside the café window look like they know the answer. They walk as if they have a secret I don’t know about. Who told them?
At the Life 2016 conference later that day, this verse was read,
“Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you; A prophet to the nations—that’s what I had in mind for you.” Jeremiah 1:5 MSG
But it wasn’t until laying in the darkness of our hotel room that it all came together.
At this exact time last year, I was in prison—otherwise known as a treatment center for anorexia. I was trapped in the same city, in the same a building, and forced to stay inside. I tried to find the answer to beauty in all the wrong places. If I was just thinner, smaller, prettier, more toned.
Fast forward to the present. Freedom. Joy. Life. Here I am, four states away in Kansas City, exploring the glittering skyscrapers with my goofy brother, and worshiping the God who…
It’s taken a while to learn and I forget sometimes, but I did not get to this point in my life because I counted calories or worked out. Nothing I do will ever change the fact that I am already beautiful.
The answer to genuine beauty is not found in the art, but in the artist.
“You are altogether beautiful, my love. There is no flaw in you.” Song of Solomon 4:7