I never feel more physically beautiful than when I am pregnant. My battle with body consciousness flies out the window as by belly expands to hold new life. The disdain I feel for my full face is eclipsed by perfect pre-natal vitamin skin and the “glow” of joyful anticipation.
But ironically, I'm never more aware of my ugliness than when I am pregnant.
For the past few weeks, my nesting instinct has been in full swing. I'm constantly making lists (on paper of course because where have all of my brain cells gone?) and feeling a sense of urgency to establish order. Which sounds godly enough, right? Except that this impulse has ripped the lid off of my idols of control and security. And lately, to be honest, I find myself uncomfortable with my own relational neediness and emotional volatility. I’ve honestly started to avoid one-on-one conversations with people simply for the sake of self-preservation at this point. It’s hard to take my thoughts captive, it’s hard to hide what I’m feeling, and I can’t imagine that my friends would be excited to spend time with this version of myself when even I feel like I could use a break from me.
I grew up in a family with only sisters and went on to share a house in college with arguably way too many women (if you must know, 9 in one house is too many). My experience with synched up cycles in both environments provides hard evidence that hormones do indeed have an effect on a person. But they are not to blame for the person’s sinful condition.
Bombarded with the onslaught of my own jealousy, manipulation, self-pity, sloth, anger, self-absorption, loose tongue, and complaining spirit all at once, I am tempted to explain it all away using a lack of sleep (hello, third trimester insomnia) or the surge of hormones in these final weeks of pregnancy. But the truth is, hormones and fatigue are simply the gloved hands that unlock and open the door to the cellar of my heart before the rats have time to scatter. Hormones and fatigue do not produce sin. Hormones and fatigue expose the sin that is already in my heart.
It certainly is a lot easier to say “Oh, I’m just hormonal.” than to say “Oh, I’m just self-absorbed and entitled.” But what do hormones do? They take away our inhibition. They make us raw and reactive. They expose what we ordinarily carefully and thoughtfully contain with well-rested minds and deep breathing and pauses. But as Jesus says that it is out of the heart that the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Our reactivity and rawness expose our hearts. Our actions and extreme emotions reveal what we worship. In my case, in any given moment lately, I can be found loving comfort, security, approval, order and control more than loving Jesus.
When I start to get overwhelmed with the sin that hormones and fatigue reveal in me, I’ve noticed that I typically start to conduct little interviews to gauge how “normal” I am so I don’t have to feel quite so discouraged or alone. But when we explain away our behavior with hormones or a lack of sleep as scapegoats, we miss out on the beautiful gift of intimacy with God that comes through repentance.
The impulse to look away when we see our sin as if it is some horror film trailer makes sense. It’s overwhelming. But rather than turning to excuses or breathing shallow sighs of relief because we are “normal,” we should instead look at the cross, the empty tomb, and our risen savior. He died to free us from the penalty for that sin, was resurrected so we needn’t be controlled by its power, and will one day return to free us from its presence forever. Confession and contrition are what he desires, and hormones and fatigue serve up what needs to be repented of on a silver platter.
This is exactly what the psalmist is asking for when he prays “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” The heart convinced of the grace available to it through Christ makes no attempt to boast in its own righteousness or dismiss or justify its sin.
BEING MADE BEAUTIFUL
Instead of ignoring and explaining away the idols of our hearts, we can join the tax collector in falling on our knees, beating our chests, and crying through our tears “God have mercy on me a sinner (Luke 18:13)!” Hormones and fatigue offer us a gift in that way. They strip us of pretenses and pleasantries and give way to the desperation that causes us to hunger and thirst for righteousness and enables us to taste and see how good our heavenly Father truly is through his resounding assurance of pardon.
And so I urge you (even as I preach the gospel to myself): don’t turn to excuses when you don’t like what you see in yourself. Turn to Jesus, the friend of sinners, and find rest for your soul. You are lovely not because of the affection you can win or even the good works you can adorn with self-righteous deception. You are lovely because he loves you. He makes you beautiful. So if you like me find that pregnancy isn't so pretty, turn and run like the wind to your beautiful Savior, who is in the business of making us more like himself as we admit how unlike him we are.