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Renewing the View of You

Three months ago, I learned a new word. I think. Honestly, the meaning is still vague, but when a conference speaker sketched a simple box with four quadrants that she called a rubric, it struck a nerve. It's an assessment that shows how well we meet our standards. If your dot is plotted in the upper right box (the higher the better) your assessment matches the standard; your confidence soars, and you're queen for the day. The opposite is true if you land in the lower left quadrant (the lower the worse), leaving a sinking feeling of failure that permeates pretty much every aspect of your life.

As she spoke, my mind drifted. A mental checklist - not as a leader, but as a woman - overtook my thoughts. The musing went something like this:

The day starts at 6 a.m. with a calorie-disintegrating spin class, a liter of water, and a protein shake. Lunch is a salad and another eight ounces. By seven, my favorite pair of jeans and fitted black turtleneck slip on flawlessly, a good hair day gets better and with a dab of lip gloss, I can't wait to cozy up in a dark booth and enjoy the intimacy of a night with the girls. For a reason I can't define, but also can't deny, these evenings are made sweeter when I like how I look. This is a magic, upper-right-hand-quadrant kind of night. The standards are high, but my assessment's a near match.

And then the rubric makes a violent shift.

When I arrive, I see a woman I don't recognize - a friend of a friend whose striking appearance dampens my mood. It isn't until charm and intellect exceed her beauty that I actually start to hate her. Only it's not her I hate, it's me. My mirror morphs into carnival glass, and in an instant, I'm freefalling to the lower left side of the rubric, hanging on by the skin under my nails. I have to resist the urge to let go.

Driving home, the real self-loathing begins. Not because I didn't measure up (although, I fleetingly imagine plastic surgery to be a justifiable option), but because I know better. I know that comparison is a black hole of inadequacy, that there is not a more beautiful identity than fearfully and wonderfully made, that being bought at a price is the greatest expression of worth the world has ever known. I know that Jesus sacrificed so that the standard for which I intrinsically strive would be erased as a gift of grace, and his ultimate assessment of me will be couched in merciful, unconditional love.

And yet it never ceases to amaze me how we - smart, capable women - screw this up.

So this is the part where I present the seven steps that make you fall unconditionally in love with your flaw-filled image, right? I hate to disappoint, but my conclusion is fairly anti-climatic, one that reminds me of a newscast that boasts a revolutionary breakthrough in weight loss: eat less and exercise more. Hmm, well, we kind of already knew that.

In The Rabbi's Heartbeat, Brennan Manning says, "Define yourself as one radically loved by God. God's love for you and his choice of you constitute your worth. Accept that, and let it become the most important thing in your life."

I'm pretty sure we already knew that too.

In a world full of impossible standards, renewing our mind proves difficult when the refresh button is only a click away. But when we choose to be transformed by the Truth, those lower left days won't send us tumbling into darkness. Maybe, instead, they go something like this:

At 6 a.m. I turn off the alarm and let the calories accumulate on my warm, flannel sheets. Breakfast is coffee, and lunch the nearest drive-thru. Gray shows through hair that hasn't been colored in six months and my jeans are tight. I sit in a booth with friends, unconscious of anything but the community of his beloved, and when the new girl makes a joke, I laugh - and I mean it. I cheer silently because my rubric was left behind for the night. Then I pray I won't find it for a few more days, a few more weeks, until one day, the transformation is complete and I forget I ever learned what a rubric was in the first place.

February24, 2009 at 3:56 PM

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