I was six years old and my mother had worked for weeks sewing the Halloween costume I asked for. Finally, the long-awaited day arrived. My mother dressed me in my full-length black witch costume, painted my face green, and topped it all off with a big, black pointy hat. I was so excited! I could hardly wait to see how I looked. After she finished the final touches and was satisfied everything was perfect, she let me lose to run to the bathroom where I took one look in the mirror and burst into tears.
Bewildered, my mother rushed to my side, “Sweetheart, what’s wrong?”
Sobbing uncontrollably, I stammered, “Mommy, I’m ugly!”
She didn’t remind me I asked to be a witch. She didn’t try to talk me into liking the costume she had worked so hard to create. She didn’t even scold me for the likelihood this would make us all late. I only remember her tenderly bending down to ask me one question. “Honey, what do you want to be?”
“A princess,” I sniveled as she wiped away my tears.
Performing a mental inventory of all her sewing and craft supplies, she looked back down into my tear-swept face, “How about I make you into a beautiful bride?”
To this day, I still don’t know how she transformed her black caped, green-streaked, sad little witch into a white-laced, blushing, flower-laden bride. But what puzzles me, even more, is why do we, as adults, still suffer with the same kinds of struggles? We spend our days trying to conform to the image society tells us is acceptable, and then we’re all miserable, each trying to live a life we were never designed for.
Deep, deep down, if we’re truly honest with ourselves, we all grew up with a dream of being a prince or princess, hero or heroine: men who fight for justice and protect the innocent, and women who long to be cherished and loved.
But somewhere down the road, we put on the masks, trying desperately to fit into a world that no longer resembles the one God intended for us. When sin poisoned the human race and the world and all that was in it, everything turned upside down. Right became wrong, and wrong became right, and only through the eyes of a six-year-old could we see that a little girl is just not meant to be an ugly witch, but rather a beautiful princess-bride.
When we look in the mirror and no longer know who we are, it is because we have forgotten in whose image we were created,
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27 NLT).
It Is only when the mask is removed, that we can we finally see clearly,
” … whenever someone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away … [and] … there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:16-18 NLT)
So take off your mask and embrace the person God has called you to be: His own beloved child. And if you are a child of the King, you truly have become His prince, you truly have become His princess … and that, my friend, is no fairytale.
Honoring All Souls
by Sarah Phillips, crosswalk.com
Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.” John 11: 17 – 27
Most of us who’ve been around for more than a couple decades have experienced the death of a loved one. I remember when a close family friend died while I was in high school.
“Uncle” Ed was only in his 40’s, a tough-looking, bearded guy with a jolly sense of humor. I remember the day he called my mom, a seasoned ICU nurse, with some unusual symptoms. My stomach felt uneasy as I overheard my mother tell Ed he needed medical attention as soon as possible.
My sisters and I would only see Ed a couple more times after that call. Once, just before he was admitted for a bone marrow transplant to treat the rare disease attacking his body. He was wearing his regular clothes and looked like the Ed we always knew.
The second time was in the hospital after his transplant. He looked weak and bald, and that scared me a bit. It was the day before prom, and mom urged me and my twin sister to tell him about the prom dresses we designed. Ed listened to our descriptions as if our dresses were the most important topic in the world. A few weeks later, I got a phone call from my mom telling me Ed passed away.
One of the saddest aspects of Ed’s untimely death was that he never fulfilled his long-held dream to marry and have children of his own. That stuck with me. But another thing that stuck with me was Ed’s memorial service. I was not a Christian, and to my surprise, Ed’s Lutheran funeral was filled with one story after another describing his devotion to Christ and his lengthy trips into the mission fields. Ed’s death played an instrumental role in bringing me to faith in Christ a few years later.
I know many of you have similar stories. Life was going along swimmingly, and suddenly the phone rang and nothing was ever the same. I also know many of you have encouraging stories of how God worked through the death of someone in a special way.
Some of the most encouraging reflections on death and eternity I’ve read can be found in a book published by former hospice nurse, Trudy Harris, titled Glimpses of Heaven (Revell, 2008). Harris collected stories of her dying patients to offer comfort to those who have experienced loss, and also to share the profound spiritual insights she has gleaned from those getting ready to pass into heaven. Having observed God’s tender care for her patients time and again, Harris says, “Those who have allowed themselves the luxury of being present with patients as they are dying come away realizing in a whole new way that there is only one Divine Physician, and it is He alone who sets the timetables of our lives.”
While death is always a tragedy, Harris confirms what Christianity teaches – that even death has merit when doused with God’s grace. Harris writes that many of her patients could sense – even see — God’s presence in ways most of us can’t right now. She notes her patients, who endured painful illness, were anxious to give hope, comfort, and wisdom to the living before they passed on. Some even died with so much grace, they wore a gentle smile.
Of course, we can look to our Savior, who did not avoid death even when He could have, to see two truths: God works through the dying process to draw each of us closer to Him, and death – no matter how horrible – does not have the final word.
While it can be difficult for those of us here to bear the weight of losing a loved one, like Martha we can find peace in knowing God does not abandon us or our loved ones even in the darkest moments of death. And while we don’t yet have the privilege of seeing God in all His glory, we can faithfully entrust our futures and the futures of our loved ones’ to the merciful love of Christ.
More Than Dust and Bone
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31 (ESV)
Remember who you are.
These are words I spoke to my children countless times when they were younger. I wanted them to remember they are children of the Almighty God. I knew if they remembered this truth, they would be better able to live this truth.
Genesis 1 and 2 read like this kind of reminder to me. A reminder I needed when my heart was broken and I could feel everything good slipping away from me. I felt so insignificant. I was trying to move forward after the deep pain of betrayal. I kept asking, “Is it even possible to heal from something like this?” As we navigate a world full of hurt and hearts so often full of shame, these first two chapters of the Bible feel like God whispering to us: “Remember who you are. Remember how I designed you. Remember all I’ve called you to be.”
When God formed, shaped and painted this world and its creatures into being, His goodness seeped in with every thought and touch. And when He was done, Genesis 1:31a says, “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
I love that God declared Adam and Eve to be exceedingly and abundantly good, even though the actual ingredients He used to make them were seemingly so very humble and basic. Dust and broken-off bone don’t seem like the most promising of beginnings.
Left on their own, these ingredients would amount to nothing. Insignificant. Unacceptable.
But chosen by God and then breathed on and touched by God, they became the only part of creation made in the image of God. They were “nothing,” turned into the most glorious “something.” They were made to be a reflection of the image of God. These image bearers made an invisible God’s image, visible.
And I don’t want us to miss the significance of Genesis 2:18 when God says He will make a helper suitable for Adam.
The Hebrew word for suitable is נֶגֶד neged, meaning “what is in front of you, in your sight, before your face in your view.” So, this word “suitable” gives meaning to the kind of help Adam needed. Beyond just needing help to work the garden or someone uniquely designed to be able to carry children so they could bring forth life, Adam needed a visual — something in front of him to view.
This seems to me to be a reflection. Not like a mirror reflecting only what you place in front of it. No, this is more like a reminder that what is standing in front of him is a reflection of God’s image.
It seems Eve, in being a helper suitable for him, was to be a reminder of who Adam was — a human made in God’s image. A reflection of the glory and goodness of God. It’s a reminder Eve would have needed as well. And together, they were to fill the earth with the glory of God. Not to just be fruitful and multiply it with children. But to multiply evidence of God Himself. (Genesis 1:28)
Their design in the image of God declared to the world, “God is worthy of praise!”
And their design declared to each other, “Remember who you are. You are of God. From God. Made in His image. Loved from the depth of God’s unfathomable Father’s heart. Treasured beyond imagination.”
This is the Divine Echo. This is what Adam and Eve were called to, and it’s what we’re called to as well. Not just married people, but every person with a beating heart. And the more we remind each other of who we really are, the more God’s goodness and glory will echo throughout the earth.
We aren’t just dust and bone.
We aren’t what we’ve done or what’s been done to us.
We aren’t the worst of what others have said about us.
We are the very breath and touch of God. Designed and loved by God. A reflection of the glory and goodness of God.
These are the truths I needed to remember about who I am. I am so much more than the sum total of my hurt and pain and insecurities. Maybe it’s what you need as well … so let me whisper to your soul, “Remember who you are.”