Becoming Ugly, Admitting Ugly, Transforming Ugly

by DanWolgemuth on July 10, 2020

I was between my Junior and Senior year at Wheaton Central High School. A spindly and awkward teenager, trying to carve his way in the world… and more importantly, his high school.

My brother Ken, ten years my senior, was the Creative Director for the Campus Life Magazine, and somebody I admired and trusted.

That is why, when he came to me with the offer to be photographed for the cover of the October issue of the magazine, I embraced the opportunity, willingly, if not enthusiastically. In retrospect, I should have asked more questions. And alas, when Jim Whitmer, an accomplished photojournalist asked me to hold a greeting card in front of my face, I should have pressed in… but, with unwarranted visions of grandeur in front of me, I chose silent compliance.

In October of 1972, my brother made good on his promise. I was indeed on the cover of the magazine. And while the photo was precisely what had been shot in the studio… the Cover Title was a bit of a shock. Particularly to a fragile 17-year-old ego.

Forget the mop of hair across my forehead… the declaration of “Ugly” was what anchored my attention. “Perhaps”, I reasoned, “nobody will know that it’s me.”

“Perhaps”, I confess, “that is why this is the first time I’ve ever opted to write the story!” Now, 48 years later.
And perhaps, most importantly, as I’ve contemplated the reality of the statement, I’ve come to embrace and confess the relevance. The reality. The necessity.


Most commonly and naturally, it’s what I see in others.

I seem to have an unclouded view of the detestable, unpleasant, and obnoxious characteristics in those around me, while I photoshop my view of myself.

A fictional view of the beauty in myself, obscures my ability to see the beauty in others. And conversely, an authentic confession of the ugly in me, releases me to see the “image-bearing” beauty and potential in others.

Arrogance is the filter on the lens I choose for my own photo session. While ignorance, or bias, or prejudice, or judgmentalism, or culture, or politics, or privilege are the filters I permit myself to apply to the lens of my view of others.

Ugly is not the self-deprecating mask I put on for others, it is the accurate assessment of the condition of my soul, apart from Christ. Of every soul, apart from Christ.

Ugly is not the invitation for others to rise to my defense. It is the perfectly polished mirror that shows, with accuracy, the image of my fallen self.

But ugly, both acknowledged and confessed, is the path marked to transformational beauty.

Jesus didn’t avoid ugly, He rescued it. He redeemed it. He transformed it.

And when He did, He opened a pathway to confession, to forgiveness, to redemption and to unity.

Unconfessed ugly, attracts amplified ugly.

Ugly attracts ugly. Arrogance ignites arrogance.

Any and every change starts with a photo on the cover of Campus Life Magazine. A humbling confession.

I’m ugly.

Not as an invitation to shame, but as an onramp to grace. To hope. To compassion. To generosity. To love.

But God, who is rich in mercy, and abounding in steadfast love…

Yes, ugly. Yes, Jesus. Yes, grace. Yes, transformation. Yes, unity.

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