If you’ve ever been around a three or four year-old long enough, sooner or later you will find yourself smack dab in the middle of a ‘show and tell.’ Confiding in you about her ‘ow-ies’ is one way that she lets you know that she trusts you. And if you genuinely ‘ooo’ and ‘ahhh’ and look concerned, she may show you every scar that she can find, as though all of her injuries just took place moments before.
When we were children, we wanted others to notice when we’d been hurt. We wanted their attention. We wanted them to comfort us… give us an extra hug or two. We wanted them to feel appropriately saddened by our discomfort and pain, because that made us feel loved and cared about. And usually, we had one family member who showed us the kind of attention we needed. However, there may have been times when others may have told us to ‘grow up,’ ‘suck it up,’ ‘don’t be a baby,’ and ‘get over it.’ That advice may work for some. But what if you don’t know how to get over it? How do you handle the scars that are sometimes left behind?
I once taught a very bright sixth grade student who’s face had been scarred by an accident. On top of that, he was smaller than many of his peers. The desire to be accepted and understood was written in his eyes and across his face. As a result, he spent much of his year acting out, trying to gain the attention and support of his classmates. Every time I conferenced with him, I saw such marvelous potential in him. I always thought that if he ever caught a glimpse of himself as God sees him, he will shake up the world with greatness. It’s my prayer that one day he will begin to see that he is greater than the body or ‘tent’ that houses his spirit.
I know that there are times when it may be difficult to accept and love yourself, just as you are. I vividly remember my eighth grade year, when I moved here from Texas. I missed home, my family, and my friends more than I can say. Then, in the fall of the year ‘it’ happened. My mom woke me up one Saturday morning, four months after moving here, with “Alice, what’s wrong with your face?” “Yeah, right,” I thought. My parents were known for kidding around when I least expected it. I wondered what she was up to this time. After all, this particular Saturday also happened to be Halloween; just the right time for a joke. My mind was on all the fun they said we were going to have at our church’s party that evening. I told her to stop joking. After about three minutes of asking me about my face, she brought back a hand mirror, put it in front of me, and my breath stopped.
My face and neck were covered with irregularly-shaped dark-brown patches. Being a very light-complexioned African American, you can just imagine what I looked like. Dark-brown spots of varying sizes were on my ears, in my eyebrows, around my mouth, and even in the corners of my eyes. I had patches from my forehead to the bottom of my neck. And what was worse, I still had to go to the Halloween party! Our closest relatives lived 12 hours away and my folks weren’t about to leave me at home alone. So I went. I wore a paper bag over my head as a costume, with holes cut out of it for my eyes and mouth. I was a sight to see!
Of course, the next day was Sunday. I couldn’t wear that paper sack to worship and I certainly couldn’t stay home. You see, my father was also the pastor. I had to bite the bullet and go… ‘ dark patches’ and all.
It’s amazing the moments you remember! I know, I know! It may seem a little hilarious now, but it wasn’t then. The skin on my face was dying right before my eyes. In fact, my face kept shedding and shedding for weeks. Every time I would get nervous, red burning blotches would appear, then gradually darken over several days as my skin died. I could pull strips of skin off at a time. I had to ‘suck it up’ and go to school and go on with my life. As a teenager at a new school, I didn’t want to go, but guess what, I did go, and with God’s help, I made it! Looking back, I didn’t enjoy the experience, but God used the ‘patches’ experience to begin to teach me a few things. First, He revealed the importance of being a compassionate person. Secondly, He taught me how to be courageous, and to handle the difficult moments by praying and asking Him for help when life seemed to be out of my control. Lastly, he taught me how to move on and focus on the task at hand.
I hope that you will come back, so I may tell you about my next lesson on compassion. Until then, may God bless you to see opportunities to love people who don’t look like you. Remember, everyone should be loved! It’s a powerful way to enjoy the journey!
Today’s question – Who do you have the most trouble loving, someone you think is physically unattractive or someone you consider to be one of the ‘beautiful people’? In other words, does someone’s physical appearance affect whether or not you want to have a relationship with them?
Scriptures to consider:
Psalm 73:26 – My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever. [NIV]
1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance or at the height of his stature, for I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees; for man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.