I have cancer. The words permeate my brain even through the haze of sleep. They haven’t been far from thoughts, since my diagnosis the week before. I offer up another pleading prayer for guidance and snuggle back to sleep.
My double stroller cast a long shadow in the cool morning. I push it along the sidewalk in front of my house, sauntering our way to my son’s elementary school around the corner. My youngest resting inside while my four and seven-year-olds run ahead.
I have a disease people die from. The words still ring surreal. This isn’t the sort of thing that happens to women with three young children to raise. Had I done something wrong? Was God done with me? Or maybe He just wanted me home.
I push on, imagining all the changes ahead. How ugly I will look with no hair and poison killing my cells. Will I physically be strong enough to continue escorting my oldest to school when I start chemotherapy?
Peace falls over me. I stop and close my eyes basking in His presence. He is always near, but since this trial began I feel connected to God and my church in a new way. As if I could feel their heartfelt prayers. The hum had been louder and more frequent that first night of learning my diagnosis. Although, more sporadic, their prayers still stop me.
Someone squeezes my arm.
My eyes pop open and Jesus smiles.
Fear shoots through me. My savior who knows everything about me stands before me. He smiles as if he’s restraining a laugh. His warm eyes hold no judgment only excitement at what he’s about to share. My shock is replaced with curiosity.
He grasps my chin. I feel a feather touch as his hand trails down my neck and chest. His fingers separate my skin as if I’m being unzipped. Electric blue light unveils across my chest and arms.
He tosses my skin in a pile on the ground. Apparent among the folds, are my deepest scars, one from a surgery in my teens and another from childhood. My dark rooted scalp with lighter hair dye tops it. A disgusting, dirty pile of flesh.
I lift my new arm. The sparkles of light aren’t like body spray as much as what forms me—vibrant blue, glittery light over a smooth, firm translucent substance, in the shape of beautifully curved woman. I’m bare but the lines are so lovely I’m not ashamed or embarrassed. I’ve never felt so stunning.
I awake to the ringing of my alarm clock on my phone.
Did the dream mean I needed to focus on my spirit? That the outer skin is not important inner beauty is what matters to God? “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1Samuel 16:7, ESV). I knew that already, but now feel it deep.
Or is He telling me to trust Him because one of these mornings when I’m strutting through life, I’ll encounter Jesus and He’ll give me a new body? Paul talks about our body as a tent (2 Corinthians 5).
A couple of months later after a few chemo treatments, I walk into my bedroom to work on the laundry that sprawls across my bed. As has become my custom, I avoid the full-length mirror. Hardly recognizing myself, I’m the ugliest in my life—bald head, no eyelashes or eyebrows, puffy face and swollen body. I resemble an alien creature. A spectacle.
I won’t think about that, instead I tackle the mound of unmatched socks. I need to remember God’s moving me forward hard and fast—giving me more of Himself, and scraping out more of me, answering my pleading prayer from before my diagnosis to increase my faith, increase my trust in Him, and increase my love for others. And decrease my evil pride.
God, I didn’t even realize how vain I was until I became ugly.
You’re beautiful. The words wash over me along with my memory of the dream. There’s no way that thought came from me.
Holding a sock, I sink to the edge of my bed and let the tears flow. “Thank you, God. I love you, too.”
“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30).
The next time I check my box at church I discover a note from Vanessa, a friend who seems to breath out encouragement wherever she goes. I smile reading her words of reassurance. My breath catches and I reread a line. “God wants you to know you’re beautiful.”
Tears blur my vision. The first card I receive that speaks for God and it’s something He’s already told me. Don’t you love it when God reaches out and shares His love for you?
Why is it so hard for us to realize what it means to be clothed in Jesus? We are perfect and beautiful in Him. Not by our own gifts. But what He has done for us. The cross. In Him and within the body.
Do you see how the body alive in Him moves and breathes? What if Vanessa hadn’t been brave enough to speak the words God put on her heart? What if she hadn’t recognized His voice at all? By faith we believe (Hebrews 11:3).
Dear Lord, please help us to remember to praise You because we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You made each of us unique and beautiful and for a purpose. Let us not forget we are made perfect by Christ. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Take Jonny Diaz’s lyrics to heart and know, “There could never be a ‘More Beautiful You.’”
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Have a blessed week!