Monday, May 7, 2007

What happened to her?

I don't remember the first time I realized that I looked different from everyone else. My parents never coddled me or spoiled me because of my birthmark. In fact, they never let me use it as an excuse to feel sorry for myself or expect special attention. So, I don't remember how I figured out that I looked different than my parents or brother or friends. But, at some point, early on, I did. I think most of my awareness stemmed from the way strangers responded to me. Adults were usually very polite, trying to avert their pitying gaze or forcing a smile when I caught their eye. Other children were another story. When I was a child myself, it seemed so hurtful to receive their stares and questions. I know now that they were just being children and that children have no filter to help them process what they are seeing or what they say in response to what they are seeing. My own children are filter-less. The most common question was usually phrased something like, "What happened to her?" Then, that child's parents would usually yank the child off in another direction or scold them loud enough for me to hear.

As I grew into an adult and became a Christian, I learned to deal with the questions and looks in a more positive way. I try to smile and show kindness to others when they stop and look. If a child asks, I try to bend down and look directly in his or her eyes and answer the question, "You know how people are born with different colored eyes and different colored hair? Well, God decided to give me a different colored face. Does it look strange to you? It looks strange to me, too, sometimes, but it's really okay." Usually, I can see the child's parents sigh in relief and sometimes the child relaxes, too. Sometimes they ask again, "But, what happened to you?" It's so hard for them to understand that nothing "happened" to me. This is just God's unique design for me.

Sometimes, it's hard for me, too. Some days, I don't greet others' questions and stares with kindness. Sometimes, I just want to blend in, unnoticed. Many days I crave privacy and solitude. I want to be free to see myself through the lens my Creator used to fashion me. I know that He doesn't make mistakes and that He sees me as beautiful and beloved. Sometimes, though, when I cave under the pressures of this superficial world, I don't feel beautiful. I feel like I live under the lens of a microscope and all my flaws, both external and internal, are on display for all the world to see. Sometimes, I feel an ugliness in my heart because I don't want to love the very people who make me feel unlovable. Sometimes, I want God to give me special attention or excuse me from being Christ-like. I want to be defensive and build walls around my heart to shelter me from others.

But that is not the life God has called me to. I think God has been walking and talking to me since I was a very little girl; holding me up, giving me courage and wisdom to know how to travel through this life. He has been whispering in my ear that my face and my heart are made in His image and that I can trust Him completely. I had the opportunity to have my birthmark removed when I was eleven. But, God clearly and firmly impressed on me, "No, child. This is not my way." Since then, He has lovingly guided me and protected me as He has unfolded His plans for my life.

I'm having trouble putting this all into words. Here's what I want to say: When people look at me and ask, either aloud or in their own minds, "What happened to her?" I want the answer to that question to be, "JESUS happened to me!" I want my life to be a life poured out for His name's sake. I want people to see Jesus in the way I walk and talk and live and breathe. I want them to see joy exuding from my heart and overflowing into my husband and children and friends. I want them to wonder, "How can she be so joyful? How can she live with a face that looks like that and still be so happy?" I want God to use what He has made in me to bring Him glory and honor. I want other people to come to know Jesus because He made me this way. I want what the Lord wants and I'm willing to do whatever He asks.

Having said all that, I know I will always crave privacy. I know I won't always choose to reflect kindness when faced with someone who is rude or insensitive. I know the enemy knows exactly how to direct his arrows at my weak self-image. But, this is what I cling to:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11
I love that the Lord planned my life in advance to glorify Him and bring others to Himself. I pray that it would always be so!

Thank you, Jesus, for saving me from what could have been a life of self-pity and destruction. Thank you for giving me the hope of heaven and eternity with You. I praise You, God, because I know You made me wonderfully and in Your image. I confess that my confidence in Your creation fails. Forgive me and help me to trust You completely. I ask that You pour me out for Your glory and according to Your will. I love you...


Rachel said...

Jen, You are one of the most beautiful godly women I know. Your face reflects the light of Christ, your lips speak His words of kindness and encouragement, and your hands go lovingly about His work. Your life and beauty have touched the hearts of many, myself included.

Ann said...

Your beauty shines clearly, and shows Christ to everyone you encounter. We're priveleged to be your friends!