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I saw her today as I was checking out at Ross. Her face was so grotesque that it almost looked like she was wearing a mask. Her nose was very over-sized, much like one of those big red clown noses, that people like to kid around with. It was lumpy and monstrously ugly. And her cheeks were like two large, lumpy padded pillows. At first my mind could not make sense of what my eyes were seeing. But as I narrowed my focus, I realized that this was not a mask…this was her face. The one she would have to get up to each morning when she brushed her teeth. The one she would have to catch a glimpse of, in the mirror, out of the corner of her eye, as she washed her hands in a public restroom. The one that she had to look out from each day, as she worked at the cash register. She would never hear anyone say she was beautiful, and that made me very sad. All women love to hear that, whether we believe it or not…

I began to think of all the times that I have not felt adequate, or fashionable, or pretty enough. My heart felt a distinctly sharp pain, and I knew that I would have to magnify it a thousand times over, to understand what this poor lady went through every day. How many times would a child point and laugh, or God forbid, cry in fright? How many teenagers coming through the line would jab each other in the ribs, and make a derogatory joke at her expense? How many adults would stare in gaping astonishment, at the sight they were beholding? How many people would turn away and go to another register, unable to deal with the horrible image?

Standing there, I realized how blessed I was to have a normal face-one that didn’t call attention to itself in a crowd. While I compare myself to others, who are much more beautiful, and feel like I am lacking, she would probably give anything to just be plain for one day-to just have a regular nose and cheeks. (To just not be noticed.) Once again, I felt a stabbing pain in my heart, that threatened to double me over, because that’s the way I am. (I identify with people to the point of physical pain.) And I knew at that moment, that she was far more courageous than I would ever be.  I would want to hide under the covers, or stay inside with the curtains drawn. But she bravely took on the world, and all its sorrow day by day.

Then it happened. A lady stepped up to her register, and the hideously deformed cashier smiled the biggest and kindest smile. And her eyes were like shining stars, with the warmth of a cozy fire. And for that moment, she was beautiful. I saw her spirit, and her misshapen body just fell away.

The Bible speaks of a time when believers will know each other “by the spirit”. These bodies are only a shell for the spirit within, and when they are no longer useful to us, we shed them and break out of our cocoon. That is when we are truly free. And in this life, there are moments, just moments, when you see beyond the trappings, be they gorgeous or grim. And you cut through all the superficiality, and the facades. And you see the spirit.

God help us to recognize all the lonely, but truly beautiful, people in our midst. 

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