In the weeks that followed our meeting, Faith and I would greet one another and smile at various church events. A key step in the establishment of our friendship was the day I felt led to call her to pray when I’d heard she was having an especially difficult time in some aspects of her ministry at church. I have learned the importance of never saying “no” or “not now” when the Holy Spirit prompts me to drop what I am doing and pray with someone. The results are always so much greater than the awkwardness the situation might initially entail. It was a few weeks later after a worship service that she approached with a shy smile and said the words that every middle-aged Christian woman secretly longs to hear, or would if she knew what it would eventually mean to her : “I don’t know what it is that you’ve got, but whatever it is I want some! Would you be willing to mentor me?”
Wow. Saying yes to such a request assumes you have the confidence to believe that you have something to say that she will want to hear. I’d have to trust God with that one. I did not enter into this relationship lightly, but prayed about it and felt God directing me to say yes to the time commitment it would require. In addition to being Jeff’s wife, I was at the time a high school teacher and mother of my own two in high school and college, with a one-night a week commitment to direct and lead the high school praise band. Time is not a commodity I would have thought I would have had any kind of surplus of, but God knew what he was about to do and he guided me in the right direction. He gave me the idea to begin by killing two birds with one stone: I would incorporate my need for physical exercise with my desire to say yes to Faith by asking her to walk with me. And so I started walking weekly with Faith.
When Faith and I began to walk the streets near my home, I noticed that male neighbors I hadn’t seen outside with a garden hose in years would suddenly appear on their front yards, grinning from ear to ear, doing everything but a muscle-man flex as they attempted to appear to be casually watering their lawns as this vision of beauty passed by. What did this girl have? What was it like to walk through life like Cinderella at the ball?
Walking with Faith as her invisible sidekick brought some of my unattractive hang-ups up to the surface. The verse from Proverbs, “Beauty is fleeting and charm is deceitful, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised,” was pasted on the mirror in my bathroom for Pete’s sake. Didn’t I believe the Bible? Was I really this shallow? It was at this starting point, this identification of some of my true shallowness that the Lord began to go deep- deep into the wounds of my childhood, the rejection I’d felt, the insecurities that came on in junior high and never really left. Like a fungal yeast infection, the spores remained, sometimes seemingly symptomless, but always waiting for an opportune moment. So God had arranged for me, a middle-aged woman who felt she was losing her figure, her beauty, and although I hate to admit it, my feelings of worth because of it, to spend time regularly parading through the streets with a beauty queen. I must have prayed for God to humble me and he found just the way to do it!
Faith was, and is, unique. She is one of God’s greatest gifts to me, right up there with his gifts to me of my husband and my children. In a way that only God has known, she has been a sign of his mercy, grace, forgiveness, and comfort to me. I sometimes gloss over lists like this of religious words, so perhaps you do too. Let’s slow down and chew on this a bit. When I say mercy, it is because I know that my past is not forgivable, save for his mercy. When I say grace, it is because I know that a gift of this kind of friendship is nothing I deserve, nothing I drummed up or found on my own. When I say forgiveness, it is because he has given me in Faith what I regret daily that I gave away without knowing what I was doing, and when I say comfort, it is because the God who died so that he could forgive us does not leave us comfortless. He sends us people he wants to use to love us for him. Faith has taught me much about a Father who sees me as loved, accepted, forgiven and altogether beautiful. But we did not get there overnight. ( to be continued)