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www.angelathomas.com

Thomas Nelson

 
Book
Do You Think I'm Beautiful?
Do You Think I Am Beautiful? The Question Every Woman Asks
(Thomas Nelson, February 2003)
 
WOMEN

Beauty is a Dance

By Laura Bagby
CBN.com Producer

CBN.comAuthor Angela Thomas, a self-confessed wallflower for much of her youth, tackles this issue of self-worth and God's love in her book Do You Think I Am Beautiful? The Question Every Woman Asks (Thomas Nelson, February 2003). Foundational to a woman's concept of acceptance is her right standing with God. Angela depicts this right relationship with our Heavenly Father as a magnificent dance in which God calls us out to the center of the dance floor and enables us to joyfully partake in a lifelong dance, resting in His strength and protection and confidence.

By discussing what can hinder women from dancing in the arms of God and describing the true fulfillment that awaits women who choose to dance, Angela sets out to free women from wrong thinking so that they can be all that God has called them to be.

Earlier this year I got a chance to talk with Angela, and I found her to be a beautiful and compassionate woman. What follows is the discussion we had about what it really means to be beautiful.

Could you explain your definition of beauty? It is obviously not just skin deep.

I dont think the beautiful that a woman longs for is all about body image. The beautiful that a woman longs for is about complete acceptance. Do you see the flaws of me and the scars of me? Do you see my wounds? Do you see what I am really good at and what I stink at? Now do you want me? Does anybody still want to call me beautiful in all that? That is my take on what a woman truly longs for in regard to beauty. Some days it does get confused with all the body stuff. It is hard to mention beautiful in regard to women and not get that all confused.

Beauty is one of the things that we as females long for. Why do you think that is?

I think it is by design. I truly believe that God wired us as women to long for beauty and to long to be known as beautiful. Why would He wire us to long for beautiful and then require us to pursue plain, or to shut down all those desires and every longing and say, I dont really long for that, I dont really desire that?

I spent a lot of years running away from that, pretending that I was strong enough and smart enough and together enough that all that stuff didnt really matter. But it does matter.

You went through a really hard time where you were just before the Lord, God, I just need to know how you feel about me. Talk a little bit about that experience.

When everything else falls away and all the props that you have depended on or leaned on and all the pretending, when all of that goes away, and there is no one else to call, and there is no more e-mail to read, and there is no one who is coming, and it is finally, me and God, then that is where the title for this book came from. Thats where everything kind of broke, and it was, Oh, God, do you think I am beautiful? Can you see me now? Obviously, He had seen me the whole time, but I was a big mess. So I asked, God, what do you think of me now? Do you still want me? I would understand if you sent me to the back of the line.' But God doesnt do that. There are deeper lessons of grace that you dont even know your life is going to take you to.

Women are taught to smile and to look good. And that grace thing, especially in our culture, is not a big factor. So it is hard to think God is smitten with me, as you say in your book. How do you get past that to where you are saying I know that God loves me completely, no matter I do?

I think that for the rest of our lives, probably, Satan is going to whisper in our ears, Its not true. Its not true about you. Dont believe Him. Maybe it is true for that one, but it is certainly not true about you. God couldnt call you beautiful. You know the truth about yourself. Dont believe it. There is a battle that rages for your soul and for your mind because Satan doesnt want you to believe a word of it. In Psalm 45:11, God says, The King is enthralled with your beauty. To believe that that would be true of me is difficult, but then I get on my face before the Creator and I feel like I hear Him speaking to my heart, Just believe that what I say is true. How much stronger would you be? What kind of life would you live if you truly believed what I said about you? I think that is the fulcrum on which the rest of our lives turn as women. We can live our lives in this very weak place where we are not sure anyone sees us, believes in us, thinks of us, knows us, or notices us, or we can finally come to rest in the arms of God.

Confidence as a woman can be misinterpreted as this 'princess complex' that you talk about. It is OK to be a princess, but we train ourselves to think that isnt OK.

I have avoided everything that has to do with princess thinking all my life. I didnt want to be thought of as the woman with a princess complex, but you know, when I truly let my heart speak what is inside, would I like to be treated special? Yeah. Would I like to be seen and noticed and heard and even heard underneath the surface of what I am trying to say? Yeah. Is that a princess? If that is what you mean, yeah, I would like that very much. I dont want to have the princess complex. I dont want people to think that the whole world should revolve around me because I know differently. I serve the Creator, yet He has wired each of us with this desire to be known.

Where did you come up with the idea that our relationship with God is meant to be a dance? God asks us, the wallflowers, onto the dance floor. We dont have to go pursuing; He pursues us. Talk about that.

It comes out of my own personal life. I tell the story about being the wallflower until I was in high school, and then for the first time ever being asked to dance and remembering so vividly what that felt like because even my friends and my peers, the guys that hung out with me in school, everyone knew me as the girl who never got asked to dance, the wallflower. Even though I made them laugh and we had fun together, I was certainly not going to be the one that anyone asked to dance.

The memory is so vivid of what it felt like to finally be seen across the room and validated that I had to believe that is how God thinks of us. I am imagining that God put that inside of me for a purpose, not for sin, not for ugliness, but just to delight in celebration and to enjoy what He has given as a gift.

I have four children, and as soon as they could pull themselves up and hold onto the sofa or a table, anything, any kind of music set them to dancing, wiggling, bopping and moving. No one ever taught them that. It just came pre-wired in them to giggle and move over a great delight. I looked at them and thought, This cant be wrong because it came wired in them. Obviously, I had nothing to do with their joy in their delight in dancing.

You talk about the distractions that keep us from dancing with God. Would you briefly go over some of those?

Some of them we just mentioned, like the whispers of unbelief. We can stay there for 20 or 30 years not believing that what God said of us is true. Then there are noises in our heads and clutter in our soulsthings that have come into our lives either by our own choosing or things that we never chose that happened to us and they havent been dealt with and they keep us from the dance.

Could you give an illustration of some of those things that we tell ourselves?

There are these questions like, Is this all there is? Is this really what God has for me? Have I missed something somehow? And then there are the questions that come from woundings. Did I deserve this? Maybe this is all I deserve. Maybe I am supposed to be a wallflower. That is what everyone has said of me. So many things come into our lives that clutter up our heads and keep us standing in the shadows believing that everyone else is supposed to dance but maybe we are supposed to stand back here with the noise that we have.

Sometimes we make choices that take us away from the dance, prodigal choices. Sometimes we stand around the edge of the room at the dance and act like the elder brother [in the parable of the Prodigal Son], who doesnt even hear the music and doesnt have any idea that he has been invited to dance in the arms of God.

Talk a little bit more about that prodigal son/elder brother concept. You gave some really good insights about that whole parable.

I think that it is a part of all of us. Sometimes I can be the prodigal, who takes everything the Father has given me and knowingly goes of to the distant country and squanders it right in the presence of God. And then sometimes I can be the elder brother, who stayed homeyou know, the good girl who made all the right choices, who still doesnt get it, doesnt get the heart of the Father, who doesnt hear the music, who doesnt know anything about grace. Grace was available the whole time, but I turned my back. Sometimes I can miss the dance because I have wandered away like the prodigal; sometimes I can be right in the room and not even know the music is playing because I am the elder brother with the snotty, judgmental attitude.

Once we get through those distractions and come into the presence of the Lord, what can we expect to get from that intimate dance with God?

Right there in the arms of God is where He envisioned us when He thought of us. There is strength and confidence and hope to wake up and face the day. We wake up with fear and trembling, or we wake up in strength based on where we are in relationship to God. When we are in His arms, content and peaceful, finding our strength there, knowing that we are protected, that we are following His lead, that we go where He guides us, it is kind of like we get to be the bride, truly, truly the Bride of Christ, the one who is beautiful, the one who is confident because she belongs to God.

That is a long way to go when you have gone through so many trials. And it sounds like you were going through trials when you wrote your book.

Yeah, and I dont know a woman who is not. I dont meet a woman ever who doesnt have a bag of ashes that she can choose to pick up and haul around every day.

So, it is a choice.

Either she is going to lay them at the foot of the Cross and ask our God to exchange what she carries with her for a crown of beauty, or she is going to haul it around.

That is good to know because sometimes we have this belief that we have to be perfect before we come to God.

That goes back to the whole prodigal thing. The prodigal came home empty and ugly and smelly and stinking and being a long way from the dance. The beauty of that is that even in the mess of that prodigal place, Scripture says that one day the prodigal came to his senses. It didnt mean that he came home perfect or changed or clean or in any other way right before the Lord. You and I are the same. We can just raise our heads and look back in the direction of home and the Father covers the distance between us: He runs toward us. We dont have to come without the ashes. He wants to take that sack of ashes and redeem them to be a crown of beauty. To hesitate, to wait because we are not perfect and we are not cleaned up and we still smell like a pig sty and we are hauling our stuff around will keep us waiting when the Father says, Turn. Just turn in My direction because I want to run to you.

I know in my own personal life, when I am going through trials sometimes it is the best plan to talk to other people, yet I think I have to be perfect and I have to have it altogether before I speak to women. I cant speak to all these women when I am struggling, but that is when people are most ministered to. Have you found that to be the case?

Ministry completely happens in the presence of honesty and vulnerability and transparency. When we are being the church ladies, I dont know that very much good happens or very much powerful happens. A lot of little tasks get accomplished. Somebody takes care of the nursery and meetings happen and we make crafts for the missionaries in China, but I dont know that any Holy Spirit powerful work happens apart from real transparency.

I think there is a time when you must decide, Am I going to stay the church lady the rest of my life, or am I going to be the unchurch lady? She is a little bit more raw, and she is way more transparent. She is vulnerable. She is messy sometimes. But God is active in her life. She has compassion to give because she understands what it feels like to receive the compassion of God. She is quick to forgive because, for goodness sakes, she has been forgiven so much already because she finally told the truth. I kind of want to hang out with those kinds of womenthe messy, vulnerable, transparent typesbecause I have been enough of the church lady.

What is the one thing you want to tell women? What is that one nugget that you want women to remember?

At the end of eleven chapters, I am hoping and I have been praying my guts out about it that the woman who has made that journey with me will begin to believe that what God says about her is true. Living out of that changes your entire life. We have known that with the gospel, too. We will either choose to believe the gospel every day and the power and strength that it adds to our lives, or we will wake up and forget until we are reminded again to believe the gospel.

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