If Only
Zoe Elmore

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness." Jeremiah 31:3 (NIV)

Growing up, my cousin Thea was the epitome of everything I thought a young woman should be. She was tall and slender, wore the latest fashion trends and her hair was always perfectly coifed. I can't remember ever seeing even one hair out of place. She always made good grades and kept her room clean and organized. She was so graceful, seeming to float on air as she walked. I thought she surely must be a princess, royal and worthy of her beauty and grace.

I, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. I grew up on the short side of tall and the round side of slender. My family didn't have the finances to dress me in the latest fashion trends and my hair was a wild mess of frizzy curls, hardly ever combed and never perfectly coifed. My grades were average and I hated cleaning my room. I didn't float on air; I fumbled and tripped my way through life. Growing up I considered myself to be the farthest thing from royal or worthy and I was convinced I was an embarrassment and disappointment to my parents.

I use to daydream of being just like Thea. Sometimes I would imitate her behavior and gracious character in an effort to please my parents, hoping one day I would be worthy of their love and no longer an embarrassing disappointment.

Sadly, it took many years for me to see myself as a beautiful princess and it took even longer for me to stop living my life through the eyes of "if only." In all honesty, I had to come to the realization that it's not about changing my clothes or hairstyle to become beautiful; it's about having a beautiful heart that has been changed.

It is a daily process to lay aside the "if only's," but that's achievable when we follow the exhortation in Ephesians 5:1. "Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children" (NIV).

Do you see it? I had been imitating the wrong person. My focus and attention needed to be on imitating the character traits of my heavenly Father, not another person. Focusing on and striving to imitate our heavenly Father is an important responsibility every believer in Christ has been given.

It's easy to look at other women and fashion our ideas of success and worth. We see the lovely and gracious exterior, we take note of another woman's success, and we fall into the trap of wanting what she has, wanting to be just like her. We delude ourselves into thinking that life would be better "if only…" The truth is, we will become beautiful women of godly influence when we put 1 Corinthians 11:1 into practice. "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ" (NIV).

As difficult as it may be to swallow, we were not created to have the perfect exterior appearance or gain the world's attention; we were created to live a life worthy of our calling and to reflect the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we do that our lives will draw others to the saving knowledge of Christ. And that far outlasts any temporary "if only" condition.

So Thea is no longer my role model – Jesus is. Who are you trying to conform to?

Dear Lord, please forgive my patterns of "if only." I want to find my satisfaction and completeness in You. Help me to focus on reflecting You with my life. You are my Lord and Savior. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
Do You Know Him?

Visit Zoe’s blog

Self Talk, Soul Talk: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself by Jennifer Rothchild

Behind Those Eyes: What's Really Going on Inside the Souls of Women by Lisa Whittle

Find hope and healing with our free resource, God Does Not Make Mistakes

Application Steps:
Looking back with the wisdom of years, what would you tell your younger self is beautiful and worthy of love? What would you tell her is beautiful about her?

When tempted to compare yourself to another woman, instead of listing her "perfections," pray for her and then for yourself.

What "if only's" do I need to confess and lay at the foot of the cross?

What Scripture can I memorize to combat the "if only's?"

Power Verses:
Hebrews 12:28, "Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe." (NIV)

Psalm 36:7, "How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings." (NIV)

John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (NIV)

© 2010 by Zoe Elmore. All rights reserved.

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Blogger Karyn said...

Oh my goodness. This devotional really hit home for me. I love the thoughts of following after and imitating Him instead of the women in my life I struggle to be like. Thank you for your words of wisdom and application steps.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so loved today's devotion.

I know my heavenly father uses the foolish things of this world to conform the wise, I watched a movie called "She's out of my league"... its about a guy rating himself a 5 in life based on his looks, abilities and so forth....

That night I went to bed and the Holy Spirit was ministering to me, see I always thought of myself as a 5 also... According to this worlds standards. But the Lord showed me that im a PERFECT 10 in his eyes.. and he is the only one who counts, because he created me.

And all you supper moms out their are a 10 ALSO !!!!



Thanks for sharing this piece of your heart, a heart that is sold out for Christ, resulting in a beautiful exterior that exudes Jesus! There is nothing more precious than that.

I was so encouraged by your devotion today and my heart leaped to Galatians 1:10, which says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ." What a heart check, huh?

In Christ,

Blogger Glynnis Whitwer said...

I'm going to print this devotion out and have my daughters read it. Thank you Zoe for writing such a beautiful invitation to follow after Jesus - in all ways. Love you!

Anonymous Emily said...

This reminds me of a song i heard the other day. The quote was "God didn't die so I could drive a Lexus, he died so that I could change the world."
I know that's not the same as physical appearance but our outwardly appearance falls into the "worldly things" category. And so everytime I stop and begin to wish for better things i.e cars, houses, hair, perfect looks. I think of this song and remember that that is not the reason he died for us.
Thank you for this devotion!

Anonymous LauraLee Shaw said...

Zoe, love this testimony, and you grabbed my heart here:
...we were not created to have the perfect exterior appearance or gain the world's attention; we were created to live a life worthy of our calling and to reflect the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ. As we do that our lives will draw others to the saving knowledge of Christ.

I'm well familiar with attempts to be like others in my past. It's the reason I went from one hobby and activity to another...trying to find the one I would be the "best" at. After many years of striving, I tossed my cape of self-effort and began to wear Jesus instead. HE is my life, and my life is now hidden in Him. So thankful to be on the journey with you, sister!

Blogger T-Reese said...

Awesome word indeed. I have "miles" worth of "If Onlys". But I thank God that I am learning daily that my focus needs to be on Him ONLY if I am to be a success in the Kingdom and most of all, my identity comes from Him.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for encouraging me today! I've been struggling (w/out really realizing it) with trying to be more like a new friend who seems to have it all together. There is nothing wrong with taking care of yourself, and dressing nicely (see Prov. 31 :) but I can see how the pressure I've put on myself to conform to this womans image is on the edge of getting out of hand.
Thank you especially for the reminder to pray for her and myself when I realize that I'm getting my priorities mixed up!
"...He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it..." Phil 1:6

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thanks... for i've been bothered because i feel constantly overshadowed by a friend I love but is so very much more likable than me...

I pray that I'll b able to put this beautiful message into practice.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

His timing is so perfect. I needed to read this today. I was just talking with my husband about how I know I'm in error as I compare myself to other women in my church. I have to remember to always strive to be like Him, not others. Yes, they can serve as role models, but we can't fall into a trap of envy and jealousy. Thank you for this reminder.

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