She sits alone as people crowd in around her. She doesn’t look everywhere and smile nervously. In fact, she rarely smiles at all. She simply stares straight ahead, eating her popcorn like the rest of the world could burn around her and she wouldn’t bother to move for it.
I recognize the look. Fear makes me wear it often when I am alone in situations that make me feel uncomfortable. I’m a friendly person. I’ll chat it up with anyone who doesn’t give me weird vibes (and even then I usually talk more than I probably should). But when I am alone, surrounded by people who know each other but don’t know me, I do everything I can to fade into the background. I know that feeling, so I recognize the look.
I bet she doesn’t know how brave she is, sitting alone in a crowded auditorium. I bet she doesn’t realize that it was courageous for her to buy a ticket and walk through the door knowing that nobody familiar would be waiting for her. I bet she doesn’t see bravery when she looks in the mirror, but I see it now as I catch her eye across the room. I politely smile and for a brief, brave moment, she smiles back.
Another woman stands in front of me at intermission as we wait in line for the restroom. She’s incredibly nice and we have giggled at the awkwardness of holding the bathroom door open for a seemingly endless line of people. We approach the mirrors on the right and I watch as she suddenly shuts down.
I notice her gaze ricocheting between the floor and the mirror. She pulls and tugs on her dress until she finally faces forward with a smile, intentionally avoiding the chunk of glass on the wall trying to tell her she doesn’t measure up.
I bet she doesn’t know how beautiful she is, how the kindness of her heart will make her more appealing than the clothing ever will. I bet she doesn’t realize she is absolutely adored by a Heavenly Father who took the time to lovingly create every nook and cranny of the body she is trying to hide from. I bet she doesn’t see her beauty when she looks in the mirror, but I see it now as she patiently smiles at every single person she passes. Behind her, I silently pray that God would let her know it to the tips of her soul–she is loved and cherished and so very precious to Him.
I’m sitting in bed, thinking about the different people I encountered that night. Thinking about how easy it is to see qualities of worth in others, but so difficult to see them in ourselves.
I’ve just spent a summer wrestling with anxiety. It was crippling and exhausting. I didn’t see bravery when I looked in the mirror. I didn’t see beauty. I didn’t see freedom or redemption. All I saw in my reflection was a lost young woman who needed to figure out everything quickly. I craved control while lacking the motivation to do anything with it. I needed purpose, but struggled to ask for it. I was a hot hallelujah of a mess, y’all.
Honestly, I still am.
I’m certainly less anxious; I’ve just realized that there’s a whole lot that is broken in this heart, in this soul. But I’m trusting that God will fix me or He’ll shine through the broken places and use the pieces for a beautiful purpose.
Maybe you can’t see how brave you are. Maybe you don’t see beauty in the mirror. Maybe you’re tracing over the scars of old wounds and you have yet to discover the mark of His healing hand. You don’t see freedom. You don’t feel redeemed.
Ask God to show you. Ask Him to open your eyes. I know it sounds so incredibly simple, but most of these things are.
Throw yourself into His Word.
On my own, I could see nothing. With God, I see traces of courage and beauty. I see flecks of freedom. I see threads of redemption weaving in and out of my story. He is the ink and the pen and the words. He is the beginning and the end and every good thing in between.
I am a mess, but I am loved by the Messiah. May my story, and my life, reflect that truth above all.