Tonight, as I scrolled through Facebook, I saw the headline of a story that was being shared numerous times by my ‘friends.’ It read, “New Miss Missouri Erin O’Flaherty Is Proud to Be Gay.” Of course it caught my attention and I had to read it. What I read disturbed me to my core. For a moment, I thought I could feel my organs shake. The issue wasn’t the precedence that this was setting to all current and rising pageant contestants that bothered me. It wasn’t even an issue that she wanted to use this to raise awareness for the LGBT community. In fact, I think that raising awareness of various organizations, including the LGBT, could be more useful in sharing the gospel than we realize. It was what I read half way through the article that shook me to my core:
“My coming out was very public, which was hard because you want it to be very private. The public access to that was very challenging because I wanted to protect my relationship, and who I am and come to terms with myself before the rest of the world got a chance to.” (1) -Erin O’Flaherty (emphasis added)
It shook me to my core because I understood (to a degree) where she was. I had been there. As a life-long pageant competitor, former Miss Florida Teen USA and Mrs. Florida U.S., and 15-year coach I have seen a countless number of girls walk through my studio doors who didn’t know who they were and were silently screaming for help. You see, I recognized them because I saw them in my old self; desperate to “protect my relationships, and who I [was] and come to terms with myself.”
I have been the girl that had to figure this out before I felt as though I could be presentable to the world. This sort of identity crisis runs rampant in the pageantry industry and in everyday life here in America. Here is why
When you spend the majority of your life (or even a few months) being “retouched” so that you can get a perfect score of 10 by three strangers who you may never see or meet again, it would cause anyone to wonder who they really are. The real problem here is not photo retouching, the LGBT community, or the one who is making and changing the rules of the game. It is ourselves.
We actively live and compete in a world whose priorities are backwards. David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me and UnChristian, argues that this world values “glamour over character, image over holiness, entertainment over discernment, and fame over accomplishment.”(2) When we live in a world that tells us to put our hope, value, and attention in beauty that is never pretty enough, pleasure that fails to please, and approval that judges on a finite scale, we end up in a bottomless pit. We find ourselves frantically searching for something to belong to and someone to be, because who we are is never enough.
Dear pageant sisters, the good news is that we don’t have to be good enough. We don’t have to stay in a bottomless pit. In fact, on our own, we never will be good enough. Mathew 5:48 tells us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.” This isn’t something that we can do in our own power. If it was, we wouldn’t need photoshop. We must first recognize that we are imperfect beings, from the inside-out.
I’m sure you have heard the saying, “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” in reference to you and your ancestors. Romans 5:12 tells us that, through Adam (the first man on earth), sin entered the world and therefore, death is passed-on to all because of sin. According to John 3:6, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” Dr. Clay Jones, a professor and Christian Apologist at Biola University, says, “We all ratify Adam’s sinful choices by our own sin.”(3) In his lecture on why God allows evil, Jones uses a C.S. Lewis quote to help put our desire for fame, power, and to “be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14) in perspective. Lewis says, “The moment you have a self at all, there is the possibility of putting yourself first – wanting to be the centre – wanting to be God, in fact.”(4)
Through the pageant industry (and I could name many more), we never get where we want to be. There is always a desire for more. If we are not grounded in who we are, this cycle can cause us to get suctioned into a vacuum of desiring belonging through people, titles, and things. However, “belonging” never really happens. It is the idea of being desired, which can lead to a false belonging, that is most intriguing. (I love pageantry; the skills it teaches and the growth that happens in the process, but that doesn’t mean it is without fault.)
Well, friend, I have good news. Our God longs for us. He desires us. He wants us. Jeremiah 9:22-23 tells us that he longs for us to know Him. “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love – not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins” (I John 4: 9-10, emphasis added).
He is ready and waiting to lavish his unconditional, never ending love on you, just like he did me. Regardless of where we came from, what our current intentions are, or what have planned for the future; He is ready and waiting to love us when we have done the unlovable, to guide us when we are lost sheep, and to embrace us in the midst of our undeniable loneliness.
If you are like I was, know that you don’t have to “come to terms with [your]self” as you are. Rather, you can know that you are a child of God (John 1:12), have been justified (Romans 5:1) and belong to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20). If you accept Jesus Christ as your savior, you have redemption (Ephesians 1:8), forgiveness (Colossians 1:14), hope (Ephesians 1:2), and are included (Ephesians 1:13) in Him (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:30). He will give you peace (Ephesians 2:14), security (Ephesians 2:20), and will remove all fear through God’s power and strength (Ephesians 6:10). You are now blameless (1 Corinthians 1:8), set free (Romans 8:2; John 8:32) and born again (1 Peter 1:23) as a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
You are the daughter of the King, which makes you a princess. That, dear pageant sister, is how I want to come to terms with myself. I know that I will never be good enough on my own. I will never be perfect on my own. But when I have the power that created the entire universe and every living thing in it, living in me, I can do all things; not because of who I am, but because of who is living and working through me.
Let’s stand together for perfection in the only one that is perfect, our Lord. For in due time, when we leave this earth, if we knew our perfect Father, we too will be called “perfect.”
(1) KAVAHN MANSOURI. “NEW MISS MISSOURI ERIN O’FLAHERTY IS PROUD TO BE GAY.” JUNE 22, 2016. HTTP://WWW.RIVERFRONTTIMES.COM/ARTSBLOG/2016/06/22/NEW-MISS-MISSOURI-ERIN-OFLAHERTY-IS-PROUD-TO-BE-GAY
(2) DAVID KINNIMAN. (GRAND RAPIDS, MI: BAKER PUBLISHING COMPANY, 2011), 210.
(3) CLAY JONES, “WHY GOD ALLOWS EVIL” (LECTURE, WHY GOD ALLOWS EVIL, BIOLA UNIVERSITY-LA MIRADA, CA, JUNE 16, 2013).
(4) C.S. LEWIS, MERE CHRISTIANITY (NEW YORK: MACMILLAN, 1952), P 53.
Victoria is a wife, mom, ambassador of Jesus, and a lover of all things that involve learning.