About a year ago, I finally got serious about washing my face. A few comments from Gilmore Girls about looking scary when we don’t wash off our make-up really stuck with me, so while I didn’t have access or money for lots of skincare products, washing my face and moisturizing is the least I can do for myself, I thought. I won’t try to over-spiritualize this too much: I was starting to feel bothered by the way certain areas of my face were starting to look due to wrinkles.
I was happy when I realized it had really become a habit. Ingrained enough that if I got in bed without doing it, I would have a hard enough time relaxing that I’d just get up and go do it. And while the reason I finally started this habit at age 33 was fairly vain, I’ve realized that the habit actually serves me in deeper ways than slowing down the appearance of deep wrinkles.
Just a few months ago, I’d had a really awful day. The kind of day that makes me fear any progress I’ve made personally or that my children have made were all a wash, and I felt compelled to open my kindle to re-skim the many parenting books for clues about what is even happening. I was also completely exhausted body, mind and soul, so I was heading to bed super early to read up. Brushing teeth is always an absolute non-negotiable before bed, so surveying myself in the mirror while brushing, I thought, “No washing my face tonight. No time, I’ve got to go find some answers.”
All at once two realizations hit me. The first, I’m convinced it was from the Holy Spirit because it sounded more like Him than like me, was that there are no simple answers — you’ve just got to wake up tomorrow and do your best again.
The second, also very unlike me (at least up until that point), was that not washing my face was some super bizarre, very-under-the-surface form of self-punishment and self-contempt. As if I hadn’t earned the right to those 60 seconds of self-care that day. So, this new me — the one who sounds more gentle and gracious loving and thus more like the Holy Spirit who’s been working so hard to set me free — decided to defy that shame and self-contempt with the simple act of washing my face anyway. Even though I failed that day, even though I was exhausted beyond words, even though, until approximately 3 seconds ago, I’d been in a hurry to get in bed with my Kindle to search for answers.
My silent rebellion didn’t stop there. After washing my face and applying my night cream, I went to the carpeted area next to my side of the bed and did the rest of my somewhat new nightly routine — the one I’ve been doing most nights since God finally broke through strongholds of distorted thinking that had me questioning if I was worthy of love. I got on the carpet, journal open in front of me to the “Beloved Charter” I’d written at a women’s retreat last Fall, and prayed it over myself while doing some nightly stretches. My nightly pushback against the forces of un-love and shame in my life.
At the end of those few minutes I spent being kind to myself and receiving God’s unconditional love to me, I climbed into bed and went straight to sleep.
No to shame. No to frantic desperation. Only grace, only love. And sweet sleep.
Boom. Take that, self hatred.