She’s a petite woman with a penchant for wearing sparkles. Chad and I first met her out in East Texas when she would arrive with gusto at different community events, her husband and daughter smiling behind her while she invariably grinned in her honest way and “told a funny.” They’re a singing trio, all extremely talented, but she is the talker of the family, and she weaves stories about God’s goodness throughout their concerts. I was reminded of this when she and her family stood before our little church on Sunday. It’s been years since we laid eyes on the three of them, but they drove out west and delivered the same heartfelt singing and story-telling that I remembered from days past.
Something was different, though. This little sparkly, joyful woman has been struggling through an autoimmune disorder, and when she walked into our church on Sunday, she did so with apologies. Her always-smiling face bears the marks of the disease that she has been battling. She placed her hands gingerly on her pink cheeks, wanting in some way to hide the signs of illness that she felt had to be explained. She was self-conscious and embarrassed by her appearance. Yet, she smiled as usual. And she thanked God. And she got up on a platform in front of hundreds of people and worshiped Him.
I sat on the front row and felt blessed to be a witness to this moment. I have no doubt that she would have been perfectly content to hide in her room while this disease alters her face. She could have easily justified her choice to stop singing, to stop traveling, to stop having this experience of explaining over and over again to a brand new group of people why her face is so changed. Yet, here she was, glorifying God all the more as she stood to honor Him even now and especially now, singing and speaking of His goodness and His faithfulness and of her desire to bring Him glory. In essence she reminded us that it’s not about her face. It’s about Jesus.
I felt sharp pangs of conviction there at the foot of the platform. I had beautiful skin as a teenager, but for unknown reasons when I turned twenty my skin turned on me. I have struggled with acne for all of my adult life and my face bears the scars. At times I become virtually obsessed with my imperfect skin, wishing for something better and different, wondering how I could hide it, bury it, disguise it. Many a day I have wished that I could stay in my house, stay home from church, stay away from my friends and family, sit at home and wallow in misery over the face that I don’t have. Chances are we all have some insecurity that could easily hold us back from doing the work God has for us. We all could find reasons to stay at home and wallow in our obsessions over things that aren’t that important.
On Sunday I sat on the front row, my teen-aged daughter at my elbow. I wondered if she and I would take this moment to heart, if we would remember how one little East Texas woman stood before us with her pink, swollen cheeks, with her insecurities displayed for everyone to freely observe. I wondered if we would remember the lesson that the Holy Spirit gently taught that day, that God’s glory is sometimes more clearly displayed when we are at our most vulnerable. That our struggles and our sufferings are never wasted in the hands of a good God. That even when healing hasn’t arrived, when things are just as bad today as they were yesterday, He can still receive glory and honor through His children.
Chances are that my daughter will remember this lesson more clearly if she sees it in me. So, I’m thankful for the picture that is burned in my mind, a sequin-clad singer with a face that told a tale of God’s glory. May I remember it forever.