I love attention. I love it on birthdays and holidays and random days when no attention is warranted. I just flat-out love attention. But there are situations when I hate attention, namely: When I don’t fit in.
And I’ve had plenty of moments like that in my life. I’ve probably stuck out far more than I’ve fit in, and even when I was claiming the top spot on the cross country course, I was scrambling to find a spot on the bus.
I was worried it would be the same case at our church cookout last month. I’ve made a lot of progress in building relationships since establishing myself in Indy, but the thought of mingling amidst a crowd of 700 people was incredibly daunting.
Fortunately, our staff was serving at the event so I was able to enjoy much of the evening by serving others. Within the Mary & Martha Complex, I heavily identify with Martha, so service is something I genuinely enjoy. The added perk was that I didn’t have to worry about feeling out of place in the crowd.
But then it happened. I was almost in the clear when someone oh-so-graciously noted that I’d been serving for a long time and was definitely due for a break.
“Seriously?” I asked myself, looking out at the stream of people. I felt like I was being sent to swim with the sharks– nice, church-going sharks, that is. The crowd was full of unfamiliar faces and each one was deep in conversation. Most of my staff friends were still serving and for some reason, I was feeling too shy to just walk up to a stranger, as kind as they might be.
Where were the people I’d met at a recent picnic? Where were all the single young men I’d hoped would come? Where were the friends I begged to stop by? And why, why on earth, had I neglected to bring a change of clothes? It was 92 degrees outside, my shirt was sweaty, and I smelled like hot dogs.
Running my fingers through my hair, I awkwardly wandered the crowd and searched for something, anything, that needed to be done.
Trash. Thank the Lord, the trash can was overflowing! The sight of dirty plates and cups had never made me so happy. Quickly, I located the bags and made a beeline for the can. I weaved my way between men and women. They were loading up ice cream sundaes and playing tag and pushing strollers and…
“Hey, you’re pretty!”
Confused, I looked down to see a little girl smiling at me. She couldn’t have been more than five-years-old.
“What?” I asked, thinking I’d heard her wrong.
“You’re really pretty,” she repeated slowly. And then, beckoning toward the trash bags: “What are you doing?”
I stared at her for a moment, unsure what to say. The crowd buzzed on around me, but my heart was frozen in that strange, beautiful moment. Didn’t she see the knotty strands of hair hanging on my sweaty shoulders? What was pretty about that?
“I’m changing the trash bag over by the water cooler,” I finally said.
“Oh! I’m thirsty,” she said, holding up an empty cup of water.
I asked her dad if I could take her and her brother- who was also thirsty- to get some water. They could hardly stop talking as we walked. I, on the other hand, could hardly stop smiling. After I filled their cups, they wanted to keep talking for a while, so we chatted until their dad said it was time to go.
“Bye!” the little girl called. “Thank you!”
As she walked away, I snuck away to the bathroom where, in the safety of an empty stall, I began to weep.
That child didn’t the weight of loneliness and insecurity I’d been carrying that evening. But God did. She didn’t know how ugly I felt or how much I’d been judging myself for every stupid or uncool thing I’d said that evening. But God did. She didn’t know how hard I was trying to to connect and how exhausting it could often be.
But God did.
Sitting there in the bathroom, I thanked the Lord as tears streamed down my face. Happy tears. I was in complete awe that the Lord so deeply cares about my heart, that He sent a little girl to remind me what He thinks of me. El Roi, the God who sees, sees me.
And friend, He sees you too, whether you are feeling vulnerable or not. El Roi sees you in both anguish and joy. And lest you forget His deep love, He sent His Son to save you and His Spirit to stand beside you.
So let me speak the truth of the of the Lord into your life tonight: You are not just pretty. You are beautiful; and you are known.
2 thoughts on “Pretty”
Thanks for sharing! It’s hard reaching out when you’re in a new group, but just like “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!” The Lord leads me to people in church I haven’t met and I’ve learned to say: I’m Heidi, I don’t think we’ve met yet. They usually share their name and are very glad I’ve connected with them! Remember, you probably won’t get to know well ALL the members of your larger church, but be friendly as you meet a few more each week and choose a few to closely connect with (The Spirit’s good at leading you into this, at least in MY experience! Lord, take away my Sister’s focus on herself and help her see Your focus each day, Amen!
Thank you so much- for the read, the wisdom, and the prayer! 🙂