In my devotion, “The Heart of the Matter,” I shared how I struggled with acne as a teenager. Over the years, I paid less attention to my outward appearance and focused on strengthening my faith. My relationship with God became more intimate during my twenties. As a single woman, I resolved to serve God and got involved in the youth ministry of our church in India. Shortly before I turned thirty, I married a wonderful man of God and moved from India to America with him.
The first few weeks of my stay in Southern California were filled with excitement and adventure. But as I started to grasp the reality of my immigrant status, I became homesick and battled loneliness. I had left behind everyone I loved and everything that was familiar.
As a brown-skinned Asian woman, I stood out in America. When I walked into a restaurant amidst a sea of white faces, I felt like an anomaly. I wanted to become invisible or hide, rather than draw attention to myself. My insecurities about my looks intensified, making me feel unworthy and unappreciated.
The stress of my immigrant journey took a toll on my emotional and spiritual well-being. But as I spent more time in God’s presence, pouring out my worries to him, God brought back to my memory how I had grappled with my looks as a teenager. Once again, I was allowing others’ perceptions of me dictate how I felt about my appearance.
Diving deeper into scripture, I resurfaced with reminders that I needed to look at myself through the eyes of my Father and Maker. God created me in his image, beautiful and perfect (Psalm 139:13-14 NIV). As God’s child, I’m loved by him (1 John 3:1 NIV). I am the apple of God’s eye.
It’s been about 13 years since I relocated to America. My immigrant journey has taught me to ground my identity in Christ and draw my self-worth from him and not from others. Whether I am surrounded by people who look like me or not, I know I’m surrounded by God’s lavish love and limitless grace. I can walk with confidence in any part of the world believing that I am the daughter of the Most High and the King of kings.
Does my physical appearance matter to God? Certainly. I’m uniquely handcrafted by God. God deliberately designed me with a dark skin tone, brown eyes, and thick black hair. However, like I mentioned in “The Heart of the Matter,” God is more concerned with the intricacies and inclinations of my heart. Seeing myself through God’s lens helps me believe the truths about my identity declared in God’s word and lays the foundation for cultivating a heart that beats for God.
Why I write:
Living in a foreign country made me wrestle with the fundamentals of my identity and faith. My desperate search for purpose and belonging brought me to my knees before the throne of God. I discovered my true identity, not only as an earthly immigrant but also a spiritual one by design, a pilgrim of heaven just passing through.
I write and speak with a mission—to challenge believers to embrace their immigrant identity and live for God with passion and boldness. I’m writing a nonfiction book, in which I draw parallels between my immigrant experiences and my God-given appointment as a foreigner on earth to shed light on what it means to truly live as citizens of heaven.
You can connect with me at www.mabelninan.com.
I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.”
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