October 21, 2013

Am I Bland?

“Man looks at the outward appearance,
but God looks at the heart”
(1 Samuel 16:7).

We’re passing through the department store, just the two of us.  The glass countertops sparkle under the bright lights, while the perfectly-coiffed ladies standing beside them offer us samples from their manicured hands.  Noticing my lack of interest in the huge array of expensive cosmetics, my companion, never one to be shy, asks bluntly, “Have you always been bland?”  Hmm.  Is there really a correct way to answer that question?

Have I always been bland?  Did I always rush through my mornings, showering quickly, slapping on face cream, running a quick brush through my hair, choosing my clothes based on comfort rather than style?

I’m sure that I was interested in my looks once upon a time.  When I was the only person I needed to worry about.  I distinctly remember staying up late at night to wait for my freshly painted nails to dry, flipping through magazines while trying to envision how the various hairstyles would look on me.  When I had time to flip through magazines.

Many years and 46 foster children later, those days of being preoccupied with  my appearance are long gone!  I have completely different priorities now.  So where did that young lady go?  When did I lose the interest in those vain pursuits? 

Perhaps it was during one of my many sleepless nights.  With many newborn babies, each of them requiring multiple feedings in the wee still hours, in addition to several toddlers who absolutely refused to stay in their beds no matter what we tried, there are probably hundreds of hours of sleep that have passed me by.  Is it any wonder that I opt to sleep a few extra minutes each morning instead of planning time for a beauty regimen?

Or maybe I stopped worrying about what impression I make while parenting teenagers.  That’s enough to give anyone gray hair and wrinkles! One sneaky teen found ways to leave the house in the middle of the night.  One regularly skipped school to spend time with her boyfriend.  We could never really trust one of them, because of his bad habit of stealing.  And another was a compulsive liar.  Most of them were impossible to wake while the sun was up, but then were quite ready for action at midnight, 1:00, 2:00 in the morning.  Who cares about clothes and hair and make-up, when all your mental energy is spent praying for wisdom and patience?

And then there were the little ones with special needs.  Medically fragile children who required diligent care and round-the-clock attention.  Feeding tubes, trachs, shunts, IV’s, heart monitors, full body casts.   It’s such a monumental task to pack everything up to leave the house, it’s easier just to stay home.   And between doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, and evaluations, who has time for personal appointments?  Sure, the layers in my hair tend to get a little straggly, but it requires so much effort and calendar coordination to get to the salon.  Isn’t that why God created ponytails?

Am I bland?  Well, I must admit that I’m not exactly the poster child for “You too can care for foster children and look great while doing it.”  But I’m actually okay with that.  I really don’t worry about what other people think.  Why?  Because my heart has a different ambition . . .

Oh, that my feet may be beautiful, not because my polished toenails are peeking out from cute sandals, but because they bring His good news to these precious, hurting children.  Lovely feet that proclaim salvation to the ones who desperately need to hear it.  (Isaiah 52:7)

My hands have had a manicure only a few times in my life.  But is that really the purpose of hands, to be beautiful?  In Proverbs 31, a wife of noble character uses her hands to work eagerly and vigorously (v. 13 & 17).  She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy (v. 20).  How I long for my plain, simple hands to be ever extended to those who need them.  And that means allowing the Lord to use them for:

Sustaining:  giving bottles to babies, cutting up food into bite-sized pieces, making sure the teens favorite snacks are in the refrigerator; preparing special diets for special tummies.

Changing:  wet diapers, soiled clothing, sheets after an accident.

Washing:  dirty dishes, mountains of laundry, little naked bodies, the safety seat after a bout of car sickness.

Wiping:  tears and boo-boos, runny noses, countless spills and messes.

Picking:  LEGO pieces out of the carpet, lice out of hair, a screaming toddler up off the floor in the market

Holding:  pages of a book, hands crossing the street, drug-addicted newborns who are going through withdrawals, screaming kids during painful medical procedures, inconsolable children having nightmares of real-life horrors.

Praying: for God’s protection over every single one of them.

When I stand before the Lord, I’m pretty sure that He will not look at me in disdain and say, “Wow, look at those split ends.  Why didn’t you get yourself a good conditioner?”  No.  May He give me a crown, one full of 46 sparkling jewels.  A crown that I will wear ever so briefly over my disheveled hair, before I then humbly kneel and lay it before the throne of Him who lives forever (Revelation 4:10).

Does it even matter that I do not wear the latest styles?  That my clothes are simple and ordinary?  That I rarely have time to go shopping for new ones?  On the contrary!  I long to be clothed with dignity and strength (Proverbs 31:25).  May I always be clothed with the priceless garment of salvation, arrayed in the beautiful robe of His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  Those are the clothes that are truly important.

Am I bland?  I admit that my face is plain.  Usually with minimal make-up.  But that’s okay.  Isaiah 53:2, referring to Christ, says that “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to Him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.”  Jesus Himself was plain.  He wasn’t worried about His physical appearance.  So why should I?

It is my deepest passion to follow Him, to be obedient to what He has called me to do.  And in doing so, I yearn to become more and more like Him every day.  Even if that means becoming humble.  And selfless.  Yes, even if that means becoming bland.

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