Elisa Morgan: How have I pushed God’s love away, thinking I’m not enough, thinking I’m too ugly, thinking that my soul is just a mess? And so he couldn’t possibly love me. And I think that’s a human dilemma. And when we fall into that - even after we know Jesus, it’s tough to see ourselves the way God sees us.
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John Fuller: That’s Elisa Morgan describing the turmoil that so many women experience trying to understand both their internal and external beauty. And it may be that you know that kind of struggle. Well, good news, Elisa is back with us today on Focus on the Family. Your host is Focus president and author, Jim Daly and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, we had a great conversation with Elisa about beauty, both internal, like you said, and external, and then how we think God sees us. And I’m telling you there are so many things that were made available to us last time. If you didn’t hear the program, you’ve got to get the download. Contact us. We’ll find a way to get you a CD or whatever you need. And you can also do the smart phone.
John: The mobile app is really good and very easy to use.
Jim: Yeah, and it really sets up the program for today. So if you didn’t listen last time, do get it somehow.Elisa had a struggle when she was a little girl — 5 years old — her dad came to her and said, you know, I’m going to divorce your mom. And she carried that burden. If I could just be a better 5-year-old, maybe I could save their marriage. That’s when my mom and dad divorced, as well - same age, five. I can share that pain and that feeling. You begin as a little child to bear that burden of, what have I done? Did I cause anything here? And can I repair it? You don’t use those big words, that big vocabulary. But that’s what your little childish heart is thinking. And it really connected with me.
We also talked about the ugly list and beauty and the external side of that. But also more importantly - definitely more importantly - how God sees you on the inside, and what he wants to do to lift that up. We talked about the hiss of the enemy and how the enemy comes after us. For women, it’s all the doubt. You’re not good enough. You’re not perfect. Look at what you did yesterday.
As Elisa said, look how you got upset at your kids and slammed the refrigerator door and everything flew out of the shelf. I think about 90 percent of moms went, yep. That was me. It was so vulnerable and so honest. I know it connected with you. We’re going to continue the discussion today, really to put tools in your hands so that you can diminish the hiss of the enemy.
John: Hm. And Elisa is the former CEO of MOPS, which is a great ministry for moms who have younger children that might cause them to slam the refrigerator door. (Laughter)
Jim: Mothers of preschoolers.
John: Yes, and she’s an author, a speaker and a radio host. And she’s been here a number of times. Always a great response when she’s here, Jim.
Jim: Elisa, it’s great to have you back.
Elisa: Thank you.
Jim: You know what I love about you? I really do. We have known each other...
Elisa: How many things? (Laughter)
Jim: Yes, let me tell you because this is important. But your vulnerability, the way you speak in public. I mean, I’ve seen you do that with MOPS up in front of 1,000, 2,000 moms and just sharing the pain and the burden that you feel. And women connect with you because you’re speaking their language. They know you’re real.
Elisa: I’d like to say, I’m just going first. You know, that’s really the truth. And, you know, I was terrified to become the president of MOPS because I’d…A, I have never been pregnant. My kids are mine by adoption. And B, I come from a broken family. And God just gently and lovingly said, hey, just get up on a platform of vulnerability. Just be imperfect. That’s all. Do you know that God gives babies every time to people who’ve never been parents?
Jim: You wonder about that plan, don’t you?
Elisa: Yeah, I mean he could give them to grandparents because we know what we’re doing. But anyway (Laughter), imperfection and vulnerability I think is what we need.
Jim: And that’s where I want to start today because I set that up with that purpose in mind, to give the folks background, some that didn’t hear last time what we talked about. They’re joining us today for the first time, just your 5-year-old heart and what you were looking for there. If I could just be perfect, maybe everything in my world would then be perfect.
You had that in all kinds of ways. You had it as that little girl. You had it as a daughter to your mom. And you had it as a parent to children that didn’t want to go the way you wanted them to go. Speak about, especially, your mom in that relationship after your dad left. You had some amazing moments with your mom. She struggled in many ways. And then how that turned out to impound the imperfection as a mom.
Elisa: Yeah, I come from a broken family and - broken by divorce originally, but then also broken by my mom’s struggle with alcohol.And I remember when I met and married my husband, amazing, stable rock of a man, we met in seminary. And I remember covenanting to create a perfectly intact second family. I may have come from a broken family, but I knew Jesus! I’d found Jesus as around a 16-year-old. And I thought, now that I know him, I can do this, and I can turn out great kids. And it’s - and we’re going have a great family. And we purposed that we would never even use the word divorce. We adopted our kids as infants and, you know, we had some very bumpy days. My daughter became pregnant as a teenager. My son struggled with substance abuse.
Jim: Let me ask you, right in that section right there.
Jim: What was the hiss? Sounding like...
Jim: ...At that point?
Elisa: “Resign from being the president of MOPS International,” yeah. That was a big one. And, “it’s your fault...You should have done it differently.”
Jim: You’re not a good mother.
Elisa: And, yeah, “you’re not a good mother, you’re not a good woman, you’re not beauty-full at all.”
You know, and incidentally I did offer to resign. And the chair of MOPS said, “Elisa, why would we want you to resign when now you’re going to know even more about mothers of preschoolers, as one is going to be living with you?” It was amazing. But yeah, that’s the hiss. And and honestly, you know, Jim and John, as we’re processing this, I just wrote this book a few years back. And I’m in my 60’s. I’m saying that out loud. (Laughter) And this was - this is a life-time message. And it was in writing this book that I recalled a conversation I’d had with my mother, before she died. My mom died in 1991. It’s been a long time. I was 36-ish, something like that.
And I remember going to her - flying to her bedside. My brother had arrived earlier, and my sister arrived after me. So I was in the middle, as is my slot in our family. And my brother said, “Oh, she just had this great time. You know, she was lucid and told me she loved me,” and da da da da, “So go in and see her.” So I went in, and I sat on the bed. And she was OK and lucid. And I told her that I loved her. And then my sister flew in the next morning, and I heard my mom tell my sister that she loved her.
And I looked back at this 20 years later, and I realized she told my brother that she loved him. She told my sister that she loved her.Itold her that I loved her. She did not tell me. And I thought, “why?” And my brother, as I was processing it, said, “Oh she knew you knew.” And I thought, “But I needed to know that. Why?”
And honestly, in writing this book, I was riding my bike, you know, trying to put a chapter together in my head. And this is what I realized. “Elisa,” I think this was God. “She didn’t tell you because you wouldn’t let her.” I had put myself in a place of defense, in a place of protection to not be wounded again by her imperfections. I put myself in this place of control.
And I thought to myself, “who else am I not letting love me?” And I think it’s God. I think the hiss of “you are not lovable” was so loud - from my dad leaving, from my mom’s struggle, her illness, from my own inability to raise a “perfect family.” I was not letting God love me. And I think we’re all like that in one way or another. We hold Him at arm’s distance. And so we have no choice but to believe the hiss rather than our beautiful God, who says we’re beautiful.
Jim: Yeah, you said this last time, but I want to bring it forward again for those who didn’t hear it. When you’re talking about those scars, that Jesus Himself bore those scars. The nails on the cross, the spear in the side, all those things that He endured. His back being lashed, cut open, wide open. Why is it significant to see our Savior in that kind of light?
Elisa: Paul talks about that we have this treasure, the Gospel, the hope of being beyond who we are in jars of clay, so that people can see that the power in us comes from God. That’s blah, blah, blah words until you unpack it and realize God put himself in a human vessel. If you think about it, God scrunched himself into the tiny fetus of a baby and put himself into the womb of a woman and came to Earth and walked on this planet in the vessel feet of a man with the vessel hands of a carpenter. And that vessel was nailed to a cross. And that vessel has scars on it, even in its resurrected form. There’s something beautiful about God’s vessel and then entrusting us to be formed in His likeness. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Elisa: That’s something gorgeous.
Jim: Well, then, when you look at the aspect of beauty, which is what this book is about, we concentrate in our culture a lot on the exterior and we covered a bit of that last time. When I was talking to Jean the other day, in preparation for the program. As a woman, you know, I was asking her, how significant is outward beauty? And I could see that she struggled because she doesn’t want it to be important, but she knows it is. And she said, “Well it’s the fruit of the Spirit. And what frustrates me as a woman is if you have two women, both full of the fruit of the Spirit, but one is prettier and one is less pretty, the prettier one will get more accolades,” at least in her view.
And I could see that really irritates her. That we talk about - even in Christian circles, we talk about the importance of inner beauty. And yet - (laughter) - those are the same Christians, often, that are going to get help from a surgeon to look younger. And how do we break loose of all of that? How do we really lift up inner beauty as the core purpose that- not the vessel but what’s in the vessel is what’s important?
Elisa: I think there’s five elements of beauty. And we’re talking about one of them, a key one, which is vessel. And that’s made of flesh and brain and muscle and, you know, all kinds of stuff, and they’re all important - our sexuality. All those things are important. It’s kind of interesting, just to pause on vessel, to understand that different attributes are valued in different cultures.
Elisa: You know, in Thailand, you may want to have light skin. In Africa, some countries actually fatten up women before marriage.
Elisa: You know, so it depends on our culture. In the U.S., we have a certain understanding of what is beautiful on the vessel. But what if we pop our understanding to view beauty as including our vessel, our physical body, but also - and let’s just not just spiritualize it with fruit of the Spirit - because the fruit of the Spirit is what we look like when we look like Jesus.
Elisa: But it’s not all the time. He made us to be beautiful beings. He made us. He said that he christened us good. And when we come to know him, the mess of the fall of our sin begins a healing process. And we grow to look like the fruit of the Spirit. But…there’s more to us than just that. Just briefly - let me just share. I think we have a voice, which is our unique personality. And yours is gonna to look different than mine. And in some cultures, being extroverted and, can we use the word bubbly, (laughter) is beautiful. In some cultures, being gentle and quiet is beautiful. What is your personality? You know, and you can do a million studies on this, and a million different kinds of tests to figure it out. But voice, just like the whorls on a fingerprint, the timbres of your voice are unique. And we need to understand that, who we are. So voice and vessel are two of them.
John: Hm. Elisa Morgan is our guest on Focus on the Family. And the book she’s written is calledHello, Beauty Full. And, um, I don’t want to keep bringing it back to the physical, but one of the homework assignments Jim and I had was to talk with our wives about, you know, when did you feel most beautiful? And the answer, at least for from my wife Dena, was probably when I got married and before I had kids. And I don’t know what Jean’s answer was for that, Jim, but I’m guessing it’s a fairly common one, Elisa. Why is that?
Elisa: In fact, I surveyed some Facebook friends and found that the day most women felt beautiful was their wedding day. And then the second most was the day they gave birth to a child.
And I think that’s because we’re looking for more than just physical. There’s physical there, but there’s also, what you hear, accomplishment. And so I want to talk about that one. There’s another element of beauty, womb, which is a really weird word to use for beauty, but think about it. Womb is a woman’s creative purpose.
Elisa: And this gets really gnarly for women. You’re single. You’ve never had a baby. “Don’t you talk to me!” OK. You’ve had too many babies, and look at your body. You’re infertile. You can’t have babies. How can you say that’s important to beauty?
Elisa: Eve talked about - in Genesis 4, she talked about the first child born. And I love this. Genesis 4:2. “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man.” Isn’t that an amazing thing to think about? Now, I’ve never been pregnant. My husband and I have our children through adoption. And it has formed so many parts of me. But you know, a woman and a family may have children. And they may spend, oh, a third of their lives in active parenting. What are they going to do with the other two-thirds?
Jim: Continue to parent. (Laughter).
Elisa: Continue to parent but differently. (Laughter).
Jim: No, it’s true.
Elisa: Hopefully. (Laughter). Hopefully differently. And I guess I just want a pop our thinking to think, what else am I going to bring forth with the help of the Lord?
Jim: That’s a beautiful, um, illustration. In that regard, it seems observable and plain that women struggle with their design in this idea of womb. That’s what you’re describing. What are you made for? That’s even an offensive statement. And I realize that not all women can bear children for physical reasons. That is true. And I don’t intend any negativity in that direction. But there’s such a bizarre cultural struggle that women - some - are saying, I don’t want a child, what a burden.
Elisa: Or that that’s all I can do.
Jim: Or that’s all I can do. That’s the two extremes.
Elisa: And it’s super valuable. It’s beautiful. But that’s not everything.
Jim: Speak of that balance, though. You know, if a 25-year-old we’re sitting here having tea or coffee with you, and she’s telling you, basically, I’m a Christian but I am - I support feminism. I think women’s rights are the good thing. And I don’t want anybody telling me what I should do with my body. Yet, she’s committed to God. There are millions of people like that. Talk about that balance to her.
Elisa: It’s a call to a vocation. I think that’s what it is. And when we talk about men and vocation, we think immediately of your career, your life work.
But the same is true of women. Yes, our bodies were created to be able to bear children. But we’re also - our bodies and our beings are created to bear children and more. It’s not just children. You know, you might have a ministry where you work with people making disciples, making followers of Christ.
Jim: Proverbs 31.
Elisa: You’re bringing forth the, kind of a new offspring in that way. Or you might be in the workforce. You may be a teacher. You may be a business woman. What are you bringing forth? I have a friend who’s launching a satellite in just a few months, and I’m blown away.
Jim: Like into space? (Laughter)
Elisa: Into space - into space! I’m blown away by her creative potential. She has three children, little children, and she’s lovingly committed to them. And she has a vocation that she believes God has called her to.It folds into that last element of - you - we’ve also talked about scar, which is our painful story, but the last element of beauty that it folds into is sway. It’s our influential legacy. And I think this is the other piece, Jim, that we get uncomfortable with. We think, oh, women don’t have influence - like leader influence? Wait a minute. Yeah, we do.
Jim: Oh, a lot.
Elisa: It begins, like, where you can focus like - what? - 18 inches from the crook of your arm to your eyes? That’s the first thing a baby can focus on. So a mom is the first thing a baby sees. And that influence multiplies. You think - well who hasn’t walked by your child’s room and caught them lined up all their stuffed animals, going, “I told you to sit here quietly until I -” Ooh, they’ve been watching me. (Laughter). And I think, eeks, I have influence.
Jim: You modeled well (laughter) or not…
Elisa: I’ve modeled well.
Jim: …So well. That’s a powerful statement because usually the researchers are finding this incredible connection to mom and not so much of a connection to dad, which is troubling.
Elisa: And he has the same exact influence. In fact -
Elisa: I would say these elements define a man’s beauty, his worth before God as well. Might not use the word womb, might use the word craft instead. But what is the vocation that that child is watching, that that workforce is observing?
Jim: Yeah and it’s so important in that regard-- what can husbands do? I’m thinking right now, you know, you start thinking of all the things you’ve done wrong. So Jean and I - I mean, to be vulnerable, I mean, I’ll rant and rave about the garage being messed up, you know, and I just spent four hours cleaning it, or eight, or 12. Even this past weekend she said to me, please, just don’t say anything about the garage – ‘cause she’s trying to say, don’t wound me. And I don’t think I ever connected that.
Elisa: That’s a great illustration.
Jim: In quite that way. Because that’s what she’s saying to me. Don’t wound me by saying anything about the messy garage that, unfortunately, I couldn’t keep clean after you cleaned it.
And we wound our spouses in so many ways that way. Intimacy or whatever way we do that, how can we improve our relationship by us, as husbands particularly, treating our wives in such a way that we value them and that we don’t, in order to score a point, say, look at the house. Look at the garage. (that’s my bad one) - or whatever it might be?What have the kids been doing all day? I mean, all of these are carrying a certain amount of weight with them. Why do we do that? I mean, why do we add to the hiss?
Jim: We amplify it rather than subdue it.
Elisa: With a bullhorn. I love that illustration, Jim. And I think if you could principle-ize it, it would be something like, realize that the things that you’re pointing out, the not-doings, the making of mistakes, those are expressions, outer expressions of our inner heart. And so when we make a mistake and it’s pointed up, and the mirror’s - shines it right back at it, we are amplifying. We’re magnifying it.
And it hurts. So for - yes, perhaps a husband or a wife to not amplify error - that doesn’t mean you can’t say, I wish you would do something a little bit differently. We need we have the freedom to help each other be better. But to do it maybe once (laughs) instead of 15 times.
Jim: And you know who you sound like is Jesus - the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery. He didn’t really go after the weakness. He set them free from it and told them to not do it again.
Elisa: And to think about that...
Elisa: ...I think we as husbands and wives as well can receive the words of goodness that come to us instead of rejecting them. When your husband says, “You look nice...”
Elisa: ...Listen - and think to yourself, that’s how God views me all the time. Receive it. When your wife says to you, “Thank you - thanks for noticing, thanks for being on time, thanks for showing up here and being invested” - take it. Take it. Take it.
Elisa: I think that there’s a way we give love by receiving those compliments.
Jim: I appreciate that, Elisa, that we all need to be sensitive - in our marriages, particularly - to understand our goal is to reduce the hiss of the enemy and lift up Christ in them, and to treat them in that way. How do we do that beyond just our marriage, and our friendships where people’s scars are so deep - they feel so ugly - internally, externally, whatever it might be - and there’s so many wounds to deal with, what are some ways we can begin to lift out their beauty so they can see it?
Elisa: Oh, my gosh - we need to model it. We need to get it in ourselves. I mean, we get up in the morning. And we get patted, and wash our face, and brush our teeth and we’re standing there going, eww, look at you. (Laughter) You know, you’ve got these bags. And - so then we go and we get ready for the day. And we get in the car, and we look in therear viewmirror. And it’s like, eww, that’s too close, look at you. And then we get out of the car, and we go into the grocery store. And we catch a glimpse of ourselves in the glass of the doorway and we’re like, really? Your hair looks terrible.
And now we’re washing dishes at night and we see the lumpy-bumps. And we just - all day - we’re talking to ourselves about how ugly we are. And we think to ourselves, you know, if I just had Jesus telling me full time that I’m gorgeous instead, maybe I could believe it...
Jim: Maybe... (Laughter)
Elisa: Maybe, but here’s the thing. He became flesh and dwelt among us. And he is with us all the time. So what if we place him with us when we go to brush our teeth in the morning? What if we place him with us in the passenger seat as we back out of our car? What if we place him with us as we go into the grocery store, and as we stand in front of the kitchen window washing our dishes and remind ourselves constantly that he sees us through Jesus, and he sees us as beautiful? And we begin to then be that mirror back to others. You are as well.
Jim: You know, often, Elisa, our suffering leads to a deeper relationship. I think it’s one of the things - traveling to Israel and being in the Middle East when I did the international effort, seeing suffering at that level, it’s amazing to think that God uses that to draw us closer to him. But it seems to be the formula. He wants us to fall into him - in our pain, in our suffering. You had a friend named Kim who went through some very difficult times. What did she learn in her suffering?
Elisa: She had breast cancer, and she was in full-time ministry. And she confessed to me she was actually angry with God because here she was in full-time ministry having to raise her support, and now breast cancer? And she wanted to show her kids a God who would provide. And it was so crushing for her to be so diminished. And she looks back at that season - she’s well now. She looks back at the season, and she realized that everybody in her whole church must have the key code to her garage door, because it would go up and down and up and down. And meals would appear in a cooler in her garage to take care of her. And while she was struggling with feeling ugly and not enough as a mom and being diminished through cancer, God was showing her children his provision by her neediness.
Jim: That’s interesting. They were seeing it through a different prism.
Elisa: And she stood back and thought, I can’t control my version of beauty. I need to relinquish that to God to reveal what my kids need. And they needed to see a God who could be with their mom in cancer...
Elisa: ...Through it...
Jim: That is so good.
Jim: Elisa, this has been wonderful. I mean, I’m still kind of just bathing in the words you’ve shared with us, and better understanding my spouse and the way I can love her better. And that’s a good thing. And I so appreciate these past two days. And folks, how else can I say it? This is a wonderful tool - a wonderful resource.Hello, Beauty Full- to have the discussion to start - I mean, I think Jean and I - these are deep discussions that you’ll have with your spouse about how she feels and where she’s at, and in-turn, where you’re at as a husband.
These are good things. And I believe so much in this book that, you know, if you’re able to help us with whatever you can, we will send you a copy of the book to say thank you. And, you know, by doing that - by ordering a book through Focus, those proceeds go to help keep marriages together, to help save the lives of babies and so much more here at the ministry. So thank you for partnering with us in that way.
John: And you can donate and order your copy ofHello, Beauty Full,and get a CD or download of our program and our mobile app as well so you can listen again at focusonthefamily.com/radio or give us a call. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY, 800-232-6459.
Jim: Elisa, here’s the parting question to leave with everyone listening. When you look in the mirror today, what do you say?
Elisa: Oh - hello, beauty - full (laughter).
Jim: (Laughter) I love that. You know to diminish the hiss and amplify how God sees you.
Elisa: That’s right, because he sees us through Jesus.
John: And amen. And thank you for joining us today as a listener and, please, when you visit our website, take a moment and fill out our Listener Survey. It’s quick and it’s easy and it is really important for us to hear your feedback about these broadcasts. We want to improve. So look for that Survey at focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And coming up next time on Focus on the Family, how to avoid making your children your number one priority.
Ruth Schwenk: We’ve tried to help them understand that marriage is really important in our home. And I think we want to be an example to our children-- not just to the world, but to our children. They’re gonna remember how we made our marriage a priority in our homes.
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