Rarely is the sequel as good as the first installment. While this book isn’t intended to be a sequel to her first, Scarlet Hiltibidal has knocked it out of the proverbial park. Again. In my review of her first book, I praised the conversational tone in which Hiltibidal writes. It makes me feel like she’s not teaching someone whom she considers to be less than herself, but she makes me feel more like she’s a loving friend; reaching out with her experiences to encourage me to take the right path. Her ability to laugh—or more often, lament—at the exploits of her younger self is perhaps her greatest strength. It takes humility to confess struggles and ongoing patterns of sin (even past ones), and this is simultaneously the exact point that the book is making: bringing our sin into the light actually frees us. She writes:
The enemy is so convincing at making us believe that if we get caught, our lives will be over. If our sin is exposed, everything will be ruined. God actually says the opposite. He says to confess, and you will receive mercy (Proverbs 28:13).
As Hiltibidal shares her journey of striving to be loved in unhealthy ways, you truly feel like you’re hearing from someone who knows exactly how dangerous striving for love and acceptance in all the wrong places can be. But solidarity is only part of what Hiltibidal brings to all those who have suffered from eating disorders, unhealthy relationships, or any other kind of self-destructive people-pleasing. What Hiltibidal presents—and what is clearly her prayer behind writing the book—is a message of gospel hope that declares “only Jesus gets to tell you who you are, because you are his. He made you. He fought for you. He won.”
Like me, you likely weren’t driven by an all-consuming desire to join the cheerleading team. But each of us can recall times when we’ve tried to fit in: when we’ve adapted our language, our clothes, our attitudes, or even our morals to appear more acceptable to those from whom we’re seeking acceptance. So don’t be too quick to dismiss this book as outside your demographic, because we all know a degree of the bondage that comes from our innate desire to be loved.
Time and again Hiltibidal writes of the supreme importance of having your identity firmly rooted in the finished work of Christ, and not in the fleeting opinions of people. Honestly, there’s something deep down in all of us that would love it if people thought highly of us, and so we compromise, or we make an idol out of seeking worth in the wrong places, and then we struggle with the guilt that the thing that can’t satisfy inevitably brings.
Hiltibidal’s message is one of the freedom that is only found in Jesus.
Believing what Jesus says about your worth is the only remedy for the exhausting cycle of striving for physical perfection.
If your happiness rests on Jesus’ ability to love you, you will never be let down, and through the cross, you will always know where to look to remember that you are loved and beautiful and enough.
We were created to worship Jesus, not to be worshiped. We were made to reflect the beauty of the Creator in our kindness and selflessness not produce a beauty that can be rubbed off with a makeup wipe.
If you have a relationship with God through Jesus, your mistakes, your reputation, even your own actions don’t get to decide who you are. Jesus does. Jesus has.
Finally, in the last portion of the book, Hiltibidal seeks to practically answer the ‘how’ question. How do we transform our minds, be continually assured of our true identity, and direct our desires to the only One who can truly satisfy? Walk with God. We must talk with him as a partner in a cherished relationship; not just as we drift off to sleep, post-Instagram scroll. And pray. Pray like Jesus did. Finally, pursue friendships with other believers who are chasing after the Lord, because God never intended for any of us to walk this journey alone. We know that that which we love most is where our time and effort is spent, so, after all that God has done for you, who is more worthy for you to spend yours on? Hiltibidal writes:
‘Love the Lord your God’ doesn’t feel as much like an action when you see how much he loves you. It is a response. He loves you despite every sin you’ve committed. … You love him, then, because how could you not?
In He Numbered the Pores on My Face, Scarlet Hiltibidal writes of how she is thankful to God, who rescued her from the never-satisfying, always-heartbreaking pursuit of finding her worth in looks, accomplishments, and the opinions of people. Surely there is something in this book for all of us, and everything about Scarlet’s writing is wonderful. Buy her book, then buy another one and give it away.