Most of the time, I do not feel anything close to “pretty.” On some rare days, I feel like a bombshell the likes of Margot Robbie or Lauryn Hill. But most days, I feel a little ashamed when I look in the mirror. My eyes are too puffy. The skin under my chin is starting to descend down my neck. I look tired, all of the time. My upper arms are too jiggly and I pretty consistently appear to be at least several weeks pregnant. Most days, I put on a light layer of make-up and resignedly think to myself, “It’ll have to do.”

I suspect the above sentiments read at least somewhat familiar to many of us (perhaps women more than men). Which is why the recent comedy, I Feel Pretty (starring Amy Schumer, written and directed by both Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein), has touched a nerve to so many. The movie follows protagonist Renee Bennett (Schumer). Renee is physically representative of most women, and yet she views herself, her body, her beauty, under extremely harsh scrutiny. Initially, it seems absurd to believe that someone like Amy Schumer, absolutely pretty in her own right (even playing Renee), could have such hatred toward herself in those early scenes. But if I take a step back, it’s all too familiar from mornings and evenings standing in front of my own full-length mirror, eyes rolling and belly out.

The first third of the movie is where the writing falls short (and critics agree). We see instances of strangers treating Renee with disdain and hostility and extreme judgement because of how (apparently) “unattractive” she is. These scenes, intended to be humorous, perpetuate the very notion I believe the movie is intending to bring down — that our physical appearances really do hold all the clout. It’s absurd that Amy Schumer’s face could make a baby cry or be mistaken as a man’s. But in spite of valid media backlash, the missed opportunities in detail and nuance, I Feel Pretty holds up.

Eventually, Renee hits her head in a SoulCycle class and wakes up thinking she is the most beautiful person in the world. And yet nothing has actually changed other than how she perceives herself.

She wakes up from her accident and slowly glances down at her arms, her thighs, and then finally up into the bathroom mirror at her face. The scene is raw and chilling. Schumer’s acting throughout the film is remarkable. What the audience sees in that moment is that Renee is already beautiful, but now she sees it and feels it. The rest of I Feel Pretty ultimately attempts to answer how our lives would change if only we felt beautiful. And in our current culture, feeling trumps knowing.

The root of our desire for beauty, of course, is our desire to be loved. Watching the movie, I couldn’t help but ask myself that next logical question: beyond knowing I am loved, do I feel it?

I’m talking about love on a cosmic, spiritual level, because even the most profound love between one person and another doesn’t fully satisfy that longing, does it? It’s an objective thing to me, at this point in my faith: I am loved. This is rooted in what I believe to be absolute fact. I believe that God loved me (loved all of us) so much that he sacrificed his only son — Jesus Christ — to die so that I could live. It is quite squarely the grandest gesture of love I can think of. And yet, most minutes of most days, I don’t live like it’s true; I don’t feel it.

Living like I’m not truly loved means that I often experience a great deal of insecurity. I don’t dress in costume anymore, and I rarely dance. Most days, I’m certain that I’m coming up short as a mom, a wife, a writer, a person who works in ministry. I bury my evenings in other people’s dramas (Netflix) so to avoid my own. I am frequently timid when it comes to building intimate friendships, giving only the surface of myself — loud and “authentic” — lest what’s actually inside of me scare a sister off. I protect my time with ferocity; heaven forbid I get tired, sick, annoyed, bored. I berate myself over poor decisions, gripping rigid to my suffering and sin. I feel fragile, and that the only hope I have in not falling apart rests in my own ability to keep the lid screwed tight.

I think many of us tend to live like this, like the invalid from John 5 to whom Jesus asks, “Do you want to be healed?” We look in the mirror and see a captive, a person serving a sentence, receiving due punishment — not someone who is dearly loved, who has been mightily fought for, who has already been freed.

Leading up to Renee’s accident, Luna the SoulCycle instructor says to the class:

I don’t know what you came in here for today, but what I do know is that the miracle is already here. You just have to open your heart and receive it. I want you to look in the mirror and visualize the change you came here for. Is it spiritual? Is it physical? Is it emotional? Today, I want you to look in the mirror. You’re not going to see what you normally see. Today, you’re going to see what you’ve always wanted to be.

Generally speaking, this is total bullshit. But not the way I Feel Pretty plays it. Each character lives in chains about who they are or are not: not pretty enough, not manly enough, not smart enough, has a squeaky voice, doesn’t know if he’s adored for himself or his money, etc. The point is that none of this matters now. After hitting her head, Renee sees herself as beautiful, as a person worth loving, and her chains are broken. With this new perception of herself, she applies for her dream job and gets it. She lands a cute new boyfriend (Ethan) and enters a bikini contest. At her best, she’s just herself — fun, smart, kind, confident. She leads with her chin, and honestly, it’s inspiring as hell. It made me wonder how our days would look if we didn’t just know we were worth loving but felt we were worth loving, bathing in what’s been done for us on the cross.

If I perpetually felt that what Jesus did was true and final — and that he did it because he loved me deeply — I think I’d live like I’d just been pardoned, always aware of the magnitude of the gift, the bigness of the love that gave it to me. I think I’d act like a child, with no wonder at all about how lovable I was, but unflinching in that certainty. I’d take risks in my friendships. I’d eat ice cream on hot days and let it drip all down my wrists. I’d be generous with my time and my energy. I’d laugh with full lungs, even in rooms that are quiet. I’d wake up in the mornings wide-eyed with anticipation. I’d wear more dresses and less sleeves. I wouldn’t punish myself; I’d treat myself tenderly and with grace. I’d look into the mirror and see a person who was fearfully and wonderfully made, known and loved down to every last un-shaved stubble on her legs. I’d feel satisfied with just doing my best. I’d host more dinner parties, inviting people into my home who I don’t know all that well. I would worry less about my physical limitations, assured in God’s perfect strength to work through me. I’d play video games with my husband in exchange for ballroom lessons. I’d see more live music. I’d cry help, repent of my poor decisions, and then walk on with a light spark in my step because It. Is. Finished. I. Am. Free. The time has already been served.

At the end of I Feel Pretty, once Renee realizes that nothing actually changed about her appearance, she goes to Ethan’s apartment to make amends. Of course, Ethan has always seen her exactly as she is. She speaks to him through the street intercom while he watches upstairs through a video monitor.

“I thought that you thought that I was the most beautiful person in the world,” she says tearfully as she struggles to pick something out of her nose.

Ethan comes downstairs to meet her. “Hey, I do think you’re the most beautiful person in the world.” And he reaches over and picks her nose for her.

“You could see me that whole time??” she says, humiliated that he has witnessed her nose-picking.

“Renee, I’ve always seen you.”

God has always seen us, the whole time, exactly as we are. And he loved us enough to die for us. This means you can eat a second hot dog, you can call the guy first, you can twirl, you can escape into Netflix, you can rock that crop-top, you can have a bad day, you can rest, you can be awkward with a new friend, and you can pay no mind whatsoever to the sneers of those kempt individuals around you who think to themselves, “How dare she be so free.”

God grant us the grace and capacity to feel your sacrificial love, that we might live like children, beloved, wild with joy and gratitude. And on the days when we don’t feel it — there will be many this side of heaven — may we cling to you and remember what Luna the SoulCycle instructor says: “The miracle is already here.” Open our hearts that we may receive it.