DISCLAIMERS: This blog is based, in part, upon actual events and people. Certain actions and characters have been dramatized and fictionalized, but are inspired by true events and real people. Certain other characters, events, and names used herein are entirely fictitious. Any similarity of those fictional characters or events to the name, attributes, or background of any real person, living or dead, or to any actual events is coincidental and unintentional, so I don’t want anyone to think I am advocating regular bathing in supermarket restrooms. I must add, though, if you must take a bath in a public restroom, make sure there is a strong lock on the door and no security cameras installed.
John Eldredge said in many of his books that the three basic needs of women are to be fought for, to share in a grand adventure, and to unveil beauty. I don't know a woman alive who doesn't struggle with the last one. We are constantly bombarded with images of what physical, intellectual, and emotional beauty are supposed to look like, both from Christian and secular sources. It is so easy to get caught up in the hype and fanfare. I am sorry to admit I have spent too much money on beauty products, self-improvement books, and seminars that promised beauty and confidence but only delivered a greater sense that not only was I missing the mark, I had no hopes of ever hitting it. And that only adds to the message that I am not beautiful, as Satan continues his battle against me and womankind at large: to tell us we're ugly, overweight, unnoticeable, unlovable, and not enough. Oftentimes, I have tried to combat those lies by going on diets and extreme exercise regimes, reading certain books, and taking courses on how to be a witty and engaging conversationalist and walk and chew gum at the same time. The other day, however, God decided that the way to show me how to unveil beauty was a trip to the supermarket.
A while back, I had planned to see the movie "Blue Like Jazz" with a friend. That particular week had been very warm, and so my hair was a bit on the slick side. When I woke up and turned on the bathroom faucet, nothing came out. A quick call to the landlords, who then called the water company, revealed that our water supply was going to be out for a few days due to "technical difficulties." I went to another faucet and extracted just enough water to wash my face and brush my teeth. I then sprayed myself down in aerosol deodorant, and brushed my hair about a thousand times to diminish the Crisco look as much as I could.
I left the house to head to the restaurant where Friend and I were to eat before the movie. On my way there, I drove over not one but two different pieces of metal, getting a flat tire. I'd already gotten five flat tires in the previous eight months, and I started to wonder if my wheel assemblies were magnetically charged. The good news was Discount Tires said my tire would be replaced for free under the road hazard warranty. The bad news, however, was there wasn't a Discount Tire in all of Tennessee that had the size tire my car needed. So, they had to install the wrong size tire temporarily to get me on the road.
I still managed to get to the restaurant in the nick of time to meet Friend. Now, I'm not going to mention the name of the restaurant, because I don't want to embarrass them with what I'm about to tell you. Therefore, I will simply refer to them as Noshey's. We went to Noshey's because, in celebration of their 65th anniversary, they were selling ⅓ pound burgers for 65¢. This was a big deal, and so the place was packed. Noshey's has a mascot called the Noshey Bear. The Noshey Bear was making his rounds to all the kids in the restaurant. I was busy talking to Friend about football and politics. Then, as the Bear walked by, he slowly dragged his right paw across the back of neck, pushing my hair off to the side as he went. It made me very uncomfortable, to say the least.
After we finished dinner, we got to the theater and headed for the popcorn stand. I had a theater gift card, a coupon for a free drink, and a coupon for $2 off popcorn, so Friend and I would snack like kings during the movie. He grabbed the popcorn and I grabbed the soda. When we approached the usher stand where the tickets are torn, I squeezed the soda cup too tightly and sent Diet Coke flying up through the straw and all over my shirt. I stopped short to stop the deluge, and when I did, Friend rammed into my back, spilling the buttered popcorn on himself, my back, and the floor.
Nothing else weird happened that evening, but that same stinking feeling I had felt so often as of late rested on me like a dark cloud. I hadn't felt beautiful in a long time, and except for God, no one was telling me I was, either. After all, it's hard to feel beautiful when I am the girl always getting flat tires. It's hard to feel lovely when I am always the girl with the vershtunken hair, which is vershtunken because something weird happened to prevent me from washing it. It's hard to feel captivating covered in butter and soda, in addition to the buttery, frizzy hair. It's very hard to feel prized when so often, of all the people the Noshey Bears of the world could've chosen to get weird with, he seems to regularly choose me.
On my drive home, one of my dear single girlfriends and fellow writers sent me a text message that said, "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is passed away. Everything has become new."
I have heard that verse ever since I became a Christian, but to be honest, I didn't feel very new. Because of the events of that day and the previous three years, I was sure I didn't look new in any sense of the word.
On my way home, I stopped at Kroger to get a Delancey Street bath. I locked myself in the ladies room, and as I was about to wash off my makeup, I looked in the mirror. I don't know what it was about the mirror; it wasn’t a big or special mirror by any means. Maybe it was because I usually only used my own bathroom's mirror. I looked at my long, brown unwashed hair. I looked at my body and the 44 fewer pounds I had compared to three years ago. For the first time since I had gotten so sick in 2003, I didn't see a bloated, socially awkward, hormonally-imbalanced, greasy, vershtunken basket case. Instead, I saw a beautiful woman, crafted in loveliness in the very image of God, who promises to make everything beautiful in its time.
I have been looking at myself a lot differently since that day. As I have pondered the events of that evening, I realized that I must be particular about the mirrors I use. The world and the church are of full of the proverbial fun house mirrors that seek to distort and condemn the images of those of whom God said at the end of creation, "It is good." I have to be diligent to avoid the mirrors that would say that the divine image I reflect is repulsive or somehow not enough. Mirroring the words the Beloved spoke to his Lover all those millennia ago, God tells his daughters, "O my love, you are beautiful! There is no flaw in you!"
I have a new mirror, and it shouts to my spirit that my time to be beautiful has finally come.