Just home from another Broken and Beautiful Retreat. The venue was the Women’s South Coast Christian Conference held at Brookings, Oregon’s Church of the Nazarene.
I prayed each time I was wheeled up the steep ramp to the stage: Lord, use me to bring good news to the afflicted, to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. Isaiah 61:1
Yes, the Lord has set this prisoner free and what a privilege to share my exit-from-captivity story. His story.
My goal was for each of the 150 women attending the conference to be able to look in the mirror and say, “I AM BEAUTIFUL.”My traveling companion and I practiced. Neither of us could move beyond, “I’m ugly.” (And that was after we’d gotten all of our make-up on.)
I asked one of the conference attendees how she faired with the assignment. She was pleased to tell me she was comfortable looking in the mirror and saying, “You are beautiful.”
But when I asked her if she could say, “I am beautiful.” She cringed and wasn’t sure.
Come to find out, we aren’t alone. Michele Cushatt in her 9/30/15 blog reports that ninety six percent of women globally would not describe themselves as beautiful. Even women who know they are made in the image of God. (http://michelecushatt.com/hello-beauty-full/)
Actually, Leslie was the only one I spoke to, who qualified for the other four percent. I crowned her the Winner for the Weekend as she unreservedly and jubilantly announced to me individually and later on from the stage, “I am beautiful!”
Oh, Beautiful Leslie, your Downs syndrome has set you free. Please pray for the rest of us who have succumbed to this world’s captivity.
Believing Ephesians 1:11a is key in changing our focus from our brokenness to our beauty. Each woman was given one of these bookmarks and invited to tape it to her mirror and to fill in her name and the date when she was able to see herself as a Gift to God.
My transparency gave the women permission to be real. A guiding principle as I write and give speeches is: “A group’s depth of sharing is set by the first person to speak. Deep sharing (and healing) happens when the first to speak is vulnerable, honest and real.”
No one misses my very visible brokenness, but what about my invisible broken places? As usual I talked openly about my less obvious emotional and spiritual areas of weakness. My stubborn, strong will. Yes, I have unbelief. My middle name is Much Afraid. And, yes, I’ve been known to be a hothead – just ask my husband, David.
Masks came off as I told tales of hysteria regarding my three mission trips to the physically challenging Romania. And it’s true I shook a fist or two at the Lord when my wheelchair was lost somewhere during international flights. Does no good deed go unpunished? Having delivered 150 wheelchairs so that Romanians wouldn’t have to crawl, guess who crawled that first night home?
“You mean it’s okay to be angry with God?” someone asked at the book table.
My answer: “God longs for dialogue. He’d rather we shake our fists at Him than turn our backs on Him.”
My goose- bumper for the weekend was the gal who opened her spankin’ new Bible asking me to trace my three pronged left hand inside the front cover. Set free was I, by this young woman’s ability to see beauty in my brokenness. A beauty this old world knows nothing of!
To my speaker friends I just have to ask: How many of you have found yourselves eating humble pie in front of your audience? It was my first time and I pray my last as suddenly I realized. Yes, I was steering the women in the wrong direction – Lucifer’s direction – with my assignment to “Look in the mirror and say, ‘I am beautiful.’” Wasn’t Lucifer so enamored by his beauty that his eyes were fixed on himself instead of the Most High God? (Ezekiel 28:12, 17)
As the retreat was ending, I observed that after four one hour talks, we were still no more comfortable saying “I am Beautiful” than when we started. Then the light bulb went on. Did it help to precede ‘I am beautiful’ with the phrase ‘in Christ?’ Yes, adding two words made all the difference in the world.
‘In Christ I am beautiful’ proved to be the ticket. But, of course! That’s it. As Christians, indwelt by the living God, our source of beauty is His beauty. He, and no one else, can transform our broken to beautiful and set us free.