There aren’t many things cuter than three- or four-year-olds in their ballet attire. Chubby little legs with pink tights hugging each little roll; the waist band not entirely able to make it to the nonexistent waist, but resting underneath that sweet little belly: heart melting, indeed. Big enough to take a class, but still in so many ways, in my eyes, babies. Baby faces, expressions of innocence, and more than they are learning ballet, they are learning that it can be safe to be away from Mom and Dad for an hour. They are learning that there are others in the world that God will put in their lives to be an expression of His love to them.
That’s probably what I savored most in my many years of teaching dance. I taught all ages, from three-year-olds to adults. But later in my career, I worked mostly with very advanced older students. So when I would get an opportunity to get back into one of those toddler classes, it was a huge delight.
A regular occurrence in those sweet, little classes was the gifts. It would be a rare day if one of those tiny, waddling ballerinas didn’t bring me a gift, some kind of token of their affection: the work of their hands.
I received pictures and projects, poems and wonderful creations—always warming my heart. To this day, I have a stash of things received from my students who are all now grown, some even having their own children.
Having struggled with an eating disorder in the past, God revealed to me many different things that brought me to repentance and set me free. One of these revelations had to do with these little gifts.
The Lord took me back to that time and showed me how much care and thought each child had put into her gift for me. It would start with an idea to show “Miss Angie” how much they loved her. Then they would work diligently to make it just right until they presented it—to be an expression of how they felt.
So much thought.
So much care.
So much love.
I could always see it in their eyes, and I made a point to be extremely expressive and animated in my gratitude of their love token. It was so important to me to make sure they knew exactly how much I absolutely LOVED what they had made me.
God put this question in my heart: “Imagine if you told them the work of their hands was just not good enough? What if you told them it was okay but would be so much better if you could just make some changes to it?”
The mere thought broke my heart. I would never criticize their heart-felt work. How ungrateful I would be to assume my changes would or could make it better than their original design. And these precious little ones were children I adored. I would never want to break their hearts by insulting their artistic expression and gesture of adoration.
God said, “I see.”
“However, you do not,” He continued.
“You see, I designed you. I created this body that you’re in as a gift to you and for you. There’s nothing in it by accident. I present it to you as My workmanship, and you criticize it. You go so far as to presume you have better ideas as to what My design should’ve been. Your criticism tells Me you think you know better than Me.”
At this point, there was no denying how prideful I had been.
With more love than these children (who may or may not even remember my name right now) could’ve possibly had for me, God gave me this body, this earth suit to be His gift to me. And yet, I spit on it by way of my insults. He gave me this body to be His dwelling place, and ultimately He gave me this body for me to give back to Him. It is His. And yet, I criticize.
Self-criticism is a sin.
Not because we need a scolding for saying something wrong, but because when we are criticizing God’s beloved handy-work, our thoughts are clearly separate from His thoughts. He’s saying one thing about us, and we are choosing the exact opposite.
Just because we have the deepest level of human knowledge about the person, being ourselves that very person, does not mean we get a free pass to criticize the workmanship of our Lord.
We take such liberties—almost as if we own ourselves, which as believers, we do not. With disregard we inflict such abuses upon ourselves. Not only are insults hurled, but also unrealistic standards are set, creating a counterfeit to humility. It’s not humility when we use our own words to spit upon God’s creation; it’s something else entirely.
Would you ever tell a child that his mother is ugly, or dare to tell a mother that her daughter just doesn’t measure up? How about telling a man that his wife is fat and unacceptable? For most of us, our standard of social graces would never allow such behavior; yet, what we quite often fail to realize is that when we are criticizing ourselves outwardly, within hearing distance of those who love us, we are criticizing our children’s mother, our husband’s wife, our parents’ child and so on. The words do not sting less simply because they’re being delivered by the person to whom the words are targeting.
How do you feel when someone speaks to you, insulting harshly someone you love dearly? We’ve all probably been there and could agree: it doesn’t feel so great. It hurts. Don’t fool yourself, that’s exactly what we’re doing.
Ephesians 4:29 says, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up that it may benefit those who listen.”
When you self-criticize, does it benefit your children, who may be listening? Does it benefit your friends or your spouse? How do you think it makes God feel, beloved daughter of the Most High? Would you be willing today to ask Him? Would you take a couple more minutes to just sit with Him and hear His voice?
Father, what are the lies I’m believing about my appearance?
Father, would You show me what You see when you look at me?
Now simply renounce the lies and declare, with agreement, God’s truth.
Gracious and Holy God,
Today we repent. We change the way we perceive the work of Your hands. We renounce every lie that exalted itself above our knowledge of who You created us to be. Our bodies are a gift to be received and cared for with gratitude and honor. Thank You, Lord, for forgiving us as we have failed to see our physical bodies as You do and for partnering with lies. Would You give us Your eyes to see ourselves as You see us today and Your heart to feel as You do about Your creation? We desire to honor You with our bodies and honor who You created us to be with our words and thoughts. We are not our own. We are Yours. Thank You for this revelation and for so gently leading us through it.
In Jesus’ Name,