This story is dedicated to the one friend who loved me through my ugly and showed me true beauty- Christianna, the most beautiful soul I know.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was separated from her father at birth. She was raised by another family who gave her everything they had. Her home was not perfect, but not many can say they were raised perfectly either. She had heard stories about her real father and her curiosity grew more and more. She grew up conflicted about love because she could not comprehend a father’s love or any kind of unconditional love because everything in life seemed to have conditions. Even the parents she had would always tell her they loved her, but sometimes their actions said otherwise. She gave up on seeking love, for she contrived this twisted idea of what love must be and resolved that she did not want any of it.
When she was 11, her father found her. He had not abandoned her; he had been searching for his little princess since the day she was born. The details are irrelevant now. Having him in her life filled the emptiness she once felt. Her world changed from night to day. She was ravished by a love so strong she could not fully comprehend its width nor its depth. The love from her father was so strong, she never questioned where he was all of those years, and she could feel that he had loved her always, even before she was born.
This little princess grew into a strong spirited teenager. She kept her father at an arm’s length. It was not the coolest thing to have your dad around as a teen. This young girl began to hear stories about what she should be, what she was supposed to look like, and how she was supposed to act. Even though her father told her she was beautiful, she never felt that way because everyone else told her she was not. She began to take the advice of her friends and her family, hushing her father when he told her she did not need any of those things to be beautiful.
As she grew into a young woman, her father’s love was relentless. He could see his daughter changing before his very eyes. Some of the changes were good-she was helpful and loving and fun to be around. Other changes were not so good; she was trying so hard to please everyone. Her father continued to tell her she did not need to be anyone but herself and that she was already so beautiful. She would often roll her eyes and say, “Thank you Daddy.” This young woman truly was precious and lovely, but she had covered herself with clothes and make up and concerns about being perfection to everyone. She began to abuse her body with ridiculous eating habits and work out routines, making herself sick most days. She felt worse and worse, but just added on more makeup and more clothes to distract people from thinking she was anything less than perfect. For the longest time, she did not even realize what she was doing to herself. She just assumed this is what most girls did to create the image of beauty. She secretly liked the attention she got from people, well, most people. When she confided in her friends about what she was doing and the kind of attention she was getting, they all seemed to cheer her on and say these were all normal signs of being pretty and popular. She let the behavior continue all the way into college, trying to hide most of it from her father.
She ended up in the hospital. Even then she continued to be dishonest with her father about why she was there. She confessed to a friend her life was out of control. She knew she had just ruined herself. She had abused her body; she had let others abuse it as well. She felt horrible. She wept at the thought that she had a father who loved her so much and how she had pushed away the one man who thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world. Her friends struggled to understand why she treated her father so poorly when he was absolutely wonderful to her. They were sometimes judgmental towards her when she confessed the things she did because they thought she was being superficial when she was trying to be genuine. Sick, humiliated, and broken she went home to her father. She just looked at him and cried “Daddy.” She could not get another word out through her tears. He held her tight, for her knew all along what she had been doing. He told her she was beautiful, loved since before she was born. He asked her if she believed him, and said yes, though it had not yet resonated true in her heart. Her father helped her on the long journey back to health, though he could not erase all of the doubt in his daughter’s mind.
His princess had certainly bloomed into a beautiful young woman. A lot of people seemed to notice. Not all of them had the best of intentions. Her self-worth was still tied into the things she did to look and feel great. Her father told her she didn’t need to do anything to be beautiful. She seemed to get attention when she looked or acted a certain way, and she mistook that for love. So many times she found herself back on the edge of going too far to look or feel good. After doing all she could, she ended up disappointed and broken hearted any way. She realized no matter what she did, she was never going to look like a Victoria’s Secret model, and no one but her father seemed to treat her like a princess. She was done. She had lost hope in humanity and confidence in herself. She built up a wall around her heart and called it being independent. Outwardly she declared it no longer mattered what anyone said about her. That wall was trying to protect damaged heart. Her father could hear her at night, crying herself to sleep. He saw her beat herself up and try to look so strong in the face of everyone else. He would ask her if she was ok, and her answer was always “Oh yeah!” As he had done for many years, he kept after her, mostly quietly. He made sure that when he said he loved her and would always be there, that he truly was always available for her. He told her they same thing every time, “You are beautiful, you know that?” to which she usually responded with those familiar rolling eyes.
One day he asked her that question, and she didn’t respond. She actually thought about what he was asking. His love still baffled her, and the idea of beauty was still confusing. She walked away and began to think about what beauty really was. She thought about the people in her life she most admired. She thought about the couples she knew who had happy marriages. When she pictured their faces, none of them struck her as magazine worthy faces, though she thought them all beautiful. The women in her life she most aspired to be would never walk a runway or be the face of an advertisement, yet she was drawn to a beauty she had not yet understood. These women were beautiful all the time. She began to spend more time with them, and study what made them different, what made them beautiful. It was their heart. In their heart they had so much beauty that it was reflected not only in their face, but in everything they did. They were not perfect, but they were covered with a gracefulness even in their failures. After much silence, she returned to her father and asked, “What makes me beautiful?” For the first time in her life, she opened her heart to hear what her father had to say.
He looked at her, he held her face, and he said “That is how you were made. Nothing you have ever done or will do can change my love for you. When I look at you, I see the reflection of my love in you. Every part of you is loved, that is why I call you lovely. Being loved completely by another, that is beauty.” At this she wept. She knew all along that nothing she ever did could make her beautiful. Everything she had ever tried amounted to nothing. Her entire life the source of true beauty was already inside her. It was nothing she had done, but who her father had made her to be. From the very beginning, he had loved her to no end, and it was that love, that grace, and that compassion in her soul that made her beautiful. For the first time she believed with her heart, and she felt free, she felt lovely, she felt beauty.
To every person who has ever felt unlovable, or ugly, or lonely, I want you to know my father. He is God the Father. He made you in his image. He loves you to no end. This world is ugly and full of lies, but He is the source of truth. God is love. All we need is love; all we need is God. I can’t say that I have been perfect and problem free since the day I accepted his love, but in all my failures he covers me with his grace. He loves you, and he wants to call you his child. I pray that one day, you will accept his love.