Dear Acne,

I didn’t expect these two words to come to mind when I remember how you first invaded my face three years ago.

After all, I enjoyed a clear complexion for 19 years until you showed up.

Let’s just say I allowed you to destroy my self-esteem and shake my faith in God’s goodness…

If you have struggled with acne before, chances are you had an all-hate, no-love relationship with it.

I never liked acne, and I never will.

My acne problem cost me a year of pricey monthly chemical peelings. It cost me my time, as I desperately searched for the best acne-healing products and visited a doctor every three weeks.

But acne also cost me my pride. God used it to change me from the inside out too.

In the past, I used to place a lot of hope and security in my baby-smooth skin.

But that vanished overnight, and a face that was once acne-free developed into red, angry, lumpy spots that stung and itched.

I never expected myself to cry out to God about an acne problem.

I thought I would just go along with it and wait for the hideous lumps to leave. But I guess my patience ran out after letting acne reside on my skin for over two years.

When my acne flared up on the days I wanted to look my best, I got down on my knees and begged God to heal me.

I remember being constantly angry at Him and blaming Him for allowing my face to go from flawless to horrendous. And I was tempted to find love and approval from anyone but God.

That was when God directed my hope to Him. It was when my hope had begun to run out that I knew I really needed God.

But wiping out my acne out completely wasn’t how He wanted to shape me.

God taught me to not cover up my flaws anymore.

Whether it was my acne, which I stopped concealing with blemishing cream over time, or the fact that I had been trying to hide my fears of being accepted behind a zit-free face.

He taught me that I did not have to pretend to be someone else in front of my friends by putting on a facade.

It didn’t matter what others thought of me or how they saw me.

In fact, almost no one criticised me for my appearance, except myself. I was the biggest “bully” to myself because I hated how acne looked on me.

Many times I wished for those days in the past where I was completely rid of the red patches. 

“I wish I had his/her complexion.”

“I wish my face were as smooth as a McDonalds’ fish burger bun or a man tou (steamed bun).” 

“I wish acne never existed at all.”

“I wish, I wish, I wish…”

But slowly, I realised: “So what if I had this gigantic ang ku kueh (red, glutinous rice cake) on my cheek?”

My friends still hung out with me, my teachers still answered my questions, cashiers still processed my purchases and waiters/waitresses still served me my food.

In fact, God surprised me by showing me that the people around me stayed and supported me throughout this journey, even when I thought they would leave for good.

I guess it was just my own expectations when others never set any for me in the first place.

Most importantly, I had missed meeting the expectations of God. His was simple: Love me, love yourself, love others.

I found the second one the hardest to do. And if I couldn’t do the second, I could never do the third.

I still remember that during the many times when I refused to love myself this painful season, God would constantly bring to mind one of my favourite songs.

Spirit Lead Me” reminded me of how God is always in control. All I needed to do was to be still as He fought for me (Exodus 14:14).

When all hope is gone and Your Word is all I’ve got
I have to believe, You still bring water from the rock
To satisfy my thirst, to love me at my worst
And even when I don’t remember, You remind me of my worth

Indeed, God loved me when I felt that I was in my worst form. He reminded me of my worth in Him.

He taught me that before I learnt to love myself, I needed to recognise that I am who He says I am. It’s because of His great love that I have an identity in Christ.

I realised that it wasn’t a flawless skin I should be worshipping, but the God who created me.

Moreover, since my body (including my face) is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), I should all the more respect it and demonstrate His love towards it.

Dear Acne,

As this journey ends (after months of trips to the doctor, daily oral medication and countless prayers, of course), I just wanted to say thank you.

Thank you for helping me grow spiritually and emotionally.

It was tough, but God used you to help me love myself and see that He loves me regardless of how I looked.

After all, my identity should not come from my appearance.

Not gonna lie, it’s weird waking up and not seeing you on my face. But I’m not gonna miss you. Don’t ever come back, please.

I promise I will be better to my face. I promise to love myself just like how God does without fail every day.

Truly, nothing can ever separate us from His unfailing love (Romans 8:38-39).

Yours Sincerely,

  1. How is your self-esteem? Is there anything that’s affecting how you think/feel about yourself?
  2. What gives you your sense of identity? 
  3. How much importance do you give to how others around you view/relate to you?
  4. What are some truths about who you are in Christ that you can hold on to?