Intrigued, I listened as he told a story of encouraging a young usher at a concert himself recently, describing how he was rewarded with the look of incredulous thanks from someone he’ll never see again. He opened then by reading a couple of e-mails he’d received with this theme.
And then he came to a heart-stopping story I’d like to share with you here to the best of my recollection…
Her email explained how she’d been born with some sort of disease that required multiple surgeries on her feet and left one of her legs disfigured. At one time the doctors told her parents she would never walk. But determined to beat this prognosis, she became victorious – except for the limp and disfigurement that plagued her, making her continually battle feeling so… less than.
“It’s so hard to think of yourself as a woman, much less a pretty woman, when you don’t come anywhere near the world’s standards,” she wrote. She had a hard time finding anything remotely feminine that she could wear… rarely skirts, and NEVER shorts. And no matter where she went, she constantly faced the intrusive barrage of inquisitive people asking “what happened” or telling her “hope you get the leg fixed soon!” She understood they were well-meaning, but it seemed she always stood out as hopelessly odd. A freak. Somewhere around college age, she began to avoid public places at times when crowds would be there. So when a friend suggested they go grocery shopping at midnight, her first thought was “Perfect! No one will be there…”
On their way to the store, her friend – who was working on some interviews for a course – suddenly switched from friendly banter to interrogator-mode about her personal situation, boldly asking how it felt to be “crippled.” Years of a pent up dam burst within her. She sat there frozen in the car, sobbing out to God. “Lord, is this a JOKE? I thought this was going to be a fun dash to the store and now… this. Can’t I EVER get away from it? Why did you make me this hideous way? Are you even listening to me???”
A little while later, standing alone at a checkout lane, she again became lost in self-thought, reflecting how at least no one could see anything wrong when she was standing still. At that moment, a woman she didn’t know stepped out of a grocery aisle and approached her. Looking warmly into her eyes, the woman put her arm around her like an old friend.
“God wants you to know He thinks you are so beautiful…,” she said softly. “He knows your heart. And He’s heard your cry. You will make a difference in this world…” Stunned by these words that spoke so deeply to her thoughts – spoken by someone who had no reason to suspect her grief – she could only stand there, tears flowing. As quickly as she’d come, the woman disappeared, leaving her dazed by the reality of what she’d just heard.
“Those words meant more to me than I can say,” she wrote now. “Words that could only have come from the God of the Universe, showing me so specifically that He had heard my outburst… that He knew my pain… that He called ME lovely… I wasn’t sure I’d believed in Him until just then.” It was a transforming moment she would never forget.
Fast forward twenty years. She was happily married and expecting her first baby. Her limp had increased painfully with the pregnancy…but she’d expected that and made herself accepting of it. Until one day well into the pregnancy and out to dinner with her husband, she broke down with the same feelings of immense inadequacy and self-loathing. From across the room, she spotted a businessman coming towards their table, and quickly looked down at her plate until he was standing right beside her.
“I know you’re going to think I’m crazy,” this stranger faltered, stumbling nervously over his words, “but…I don’t know… I can’t stop thinking that He is wanting me to come tell you something… God, I mean…” He looked imploringly into her eyes.
“Well, that would be the second message I’ve received in 20 years,” she laughed wryly, “so, why not? Go ahead…”
Once again, words came that were formed just for her, to the cry in her soul. “God wants you to know that he has crowned you and you walk in beauty,” the man began. “Things happen in this world that He will turn to good… you will see how you will be a blessing to many.”
As the man smiled, he turned to walk back to his business group waiting at another table. Leaving her once again in an overflow of tears.
Now, concluding her email story, she added a message to us all. “To close, I want to encourage your listeners today, to never hesitate to speak out His words of hope and beauty… even if those words are to a total stranger. These two random words of kindness have shown me how much my God knows and cares for my heart…that He would send two people to me…so many years apart… to let me know He sees ME… and calls me beautiful. ”
As the radio host host read this e-mail with ultimate feeling in every line, I’d felt her tears behind my own eyes… for the words spoken to her by these two strangers reverberate in my own heart for many reasons. As I suspect they did to most everyone listening.
For who of us hasn’t felt “less than” at one time or another? Felt forgotten or unlovely… alone…a misfit? So many Job-like events battering us around… And today, God reaffirmed His message of love over me even as I listened to how He’d spoken it into a woman I’ll never meet…
And…Since I immediately felt compelled to share this story here…tonight… I trust He wants to speak them to you too…
You are beautiful in His sight.
He has crowned you to walk in beauty.
Even now, another wondrous image that began my morning today is also coming into my mind. A minister I was watching on TV was speaking of his visit to Muir Woods – a place I’m well familiar with, where humongous redwoods tower, hundreds of years old. He showed a photo he’d taken of one of the massive trunks that had fallen across a stream. Dead. No life left in it. Not even touching the water, but more like a bridge over the top of the water. And the Holy Spirit had quickened to him that the tree was a picture of how God can bring new life out of what’s dead and lifeless. For out of the top of this dead tree, new greenery was branching out… purely from the “scent of the water” below it.
I know there is a verse somewhere that says that, I thought, as he shared this wondrous truth… at the scent of water… God is making us like a well-watered tree, planting us by His river of life…
“Let the Holy Spirit breathe the scent of His living water into you,” the minister enjoined…
“So that today… even this minute… He is moving to bring new greenery out of your life, your sorrows and griefs, your joys… as you give them to Him…”
And as He leads us, let us be ready to whisper it into someone else’s ear…
…He has crowned you to walk in beauty…
© Pam Depoyan