They Do Exist.

Bodies & Beauty: Never Beautiful Enough.

Editor’s Note: We live in a culture that has idolized beauty. A culture that has promised us we will find joy in beauty and youth and perfection, and nowhere else. Hannah Brencher shares a story about the little orphan girls in Haiti, their all-consuming joy, and what she sees in the mirror. Hannah is the Communications Associate for Save the Children & Researcher for  She’s the First. She blogs at & tweets at @hannahkatybLauren

I ask him to tell me the story nearly every time his voice picks up on the other line.

I am like a breathy child in need of his bedtime tale; for the way he unravels the deeper story, like a chocolate wrapped tight in tinfoil, is just too good, far too sweet, to hear only once. Or Twice.

He tells me of the orphanage in the Honduras where he spent a summer. Building and expanding the grounds. The Little Girls scampered and played, the crowns of their heads kissed endlessly by the Sun, as he and the other workers toiled in the distance, mixing concrete and sweat with buckets of compassion to give these girls more room to play.

As the fireflies came out to light up the dusk, he and working men would wipe their brows and walk back closer to the school to be fed by the laughter and joy of the Little Girls. Little Girls with no arms. No Legs. Limbless. Untouchable in their own society. Girls who would be categorized as “incomplete” in our very own society.

“But they were the happiest children I have ever seen, ”he told me.“

It’s as if you can hear the tune of “Jesus loves the little children,” rising up, stomping its feet, to tell the world of nonbelievers it is a song coming to life as he tells me about those Beautiful Little Ones. Over & Over Again.

Missing arms & legs, and yet missing nothing at all.

The story always leaves me sitting before a full length mirror wondering what happened. What happened in my own life to leave me believing that even with arms that swing and feet that dance, I am missing something? That I am not good enough?

While those little girls scrounge the dirt for insects and flowers, I scour the shopping malls and my own body for perfection, something I know will never exist. For if it were not my hips then it would be my thighs. And after my freckles, then my stomach.

Perhaps its never that we grow to be perfect but we grow to learn the loveliness behind what’s there in the mirror. What God chose to put there all along. I cannot be certain, I haven’t learned this lesson myself yet. In fact, I’m shooting through the dark, afraid this is the lesson I was meant to learn all along.

I gave up beauty magazines for a year just two months ago. It has been sixty days since my hands slid across a glossy cover and unearthed the secrets to slimmer thighs and better biceps. And yet I am still standing at the fore font of the mud I know I need to sink my feet within; the reason I gave up my own 120-pages of Heaven to begin with. God and I. We still need to converse about my interior and the ways He desires to mold me to be more like His Son.

Like a little child desperate to ignore the request of her parent, I will throw just about any kind of tantrum to keep me fixated on the outside, on the unimportant exterior details that will surely keep me far too busy to ever do any real kind of Soul Fixing.

Just let me fix my split ends, God, and then we can get to my jealousy. Oh please, oh please, let me focus on smooth skin and then in no time we will be chatting about last summer and why I still cannot let you take it from my shoulders.

I know if I plucked away from my day the hour or two spent checking my teeth or scrutinizing the size of my thighs  I would probably have a good chunk of time on my hands. Time to start fixing other things. Relationships. Sins.

I’d rather stick to the mirror.

There I’ll stay. Wrapped up good. Wrapped up tight. Spending tiny eternities fixated on my own body image before I step any closer towards morphing myself into His own image. Until I admit it to myself: I wont be an ounce holier, a bit happier, with more toned shoulders.

“I don’t want to change,” I say under my breath.

“But I cannot leave you this way,” God says back. “You and I both know I  could never leave you this way.

It hurts. It crushes. To clutch the hand of my God as he leads me to the car crashes that line up in my soul. I want to grab the tweezers instead. I want to dart over to Sephora and submerge myself in shelves of glittery eyeshadow before I ever have to deal with what brews inside my own heart, what God could absolutely stand to see changed. The Ugliness that keeps me standing still and far off from the Bigger Plans he has for me.

Because it would be so scary, oh so scary, to see for the first time that I don’t need thirty day plans or diet secrets. That I don’t need more makeup and tinier jeans. That He spun me and made me for greater works that we both will never see to pass until I give up my  body image ammunition and surrender at His Feet.

Because only when I dare to get ugly with my God will He make me more beautiful.

Only when I stop praying for outer beauty will He put me to work with the insides of others.

Only when I turn away from the mirror will I see the beauty there is to be stitched within the world and the real part I was made to play in all of it..

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11 Responses

  1. What a beautiful post. I'm so glad I happened upon it today. Thank you for sharing this.

    June 30, 2011 at 10:46 am

  2. loreferguson

    Love this! Love it.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:02 am

  3. Hi Hannah,

    We waste so much of our precious lives looking in the mirror, seeking something we can never find there no matter how "perfect" our reflection may be.

    Lovely piece on understanding what's important in life. Now, to move our country there. Our society creates shallow people who live shallow lives buying shallow things … Will we change that? It starts with each one of us. Thx, G.

    June 30, 2011 at 11:21 am

  4. This is both beautiful and challenging, a true and timely reminder, written in a fresh way. Thanks for sharing this!!

    June 30, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  5. Debbie

    This is so, so good!

    I am coming to realize, after reading these posts this month on GoodWomen, that the more critical I am of my image in the mirror, the more I am training my eye toward outward appearance in others, and the more I judge others by appearances. It is not premeditated, but it's a state of the heart that I am not guarding against.

    Thank you, GoodWomen, for showing me a place in my heart that needs tending. I purpose now to look deeper, with grace and love toward others and self, desiring to know what beauty and gifts our Creator has woven into each of us. God help me cast aside the quick judgement, and see with your eyes the hidden treasures of the heart.

    June 30, 2011 at 8:52 pm

  6. practicingjane

    Thanks for writing this and showing your beautiful gift of reflection. Yes, it's so easy to get sucked into the lies that looking a certain way and following the "rules" of fashion will make us better. Women have enough guilt. It's time to start giving ourselves grace and realizing what important work God has made us for, bringing beauty to the world, not just to our appearance.

    July 5, 2011 at 11:15 am

  7. Dawn

    I struggle with this. Just make me beautiful and then I can be beautiful for others I pray to God but I got it all wrong. I want to be beautiful like Jesus inside so I can be a beautiful blessing to others. Thank you for this reminder.

    September 7, 2011 at 8:27 am

  8. Thank you for this powerful reminder.

    January 11, 2012 at 10:23 am

  9. Pingback: Beauty. | καρισ. αδιαλεπτος.

  10. @MelissaPowley

    Tears came to my eyes when I read: “I don’t want to change,” I say under my breath.

    “But I cannot leave you this way,” God says back. “You and I both know I could never leave you this way."

    For I am in constant fear of change, not being in control of my own life scares me. Yet I still pray daily, 'Lord let me live the way you want, help me place all control in your hands'. writing this now shows me how stupid I am being. For God's plan is perfect.

    My boyfriend is contstantly telling me, 'dont change, I love you just the way you are', but now I know this is referring to diets and fitness plans. He is shouting the things God wants us to know, for worrying over the scales, it is just pointless, but focussing on our relationship with God, well thats something to put all our energy into.

    I just wish all the girls out there knew to look in the mirror and love the reflection, for we will always be beautiful in the eyes of God.

    February 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm

  11. It’s as if you can hear the tune of “Jesus loves the little children,” rising up, stomping its feet, to tell the world of nonbelievers it is a song coming to life as he tells me about those Beautiful Little Ones. Over & Over Again.

    August 17, 2014 at 6:29 am

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