She has no idea she’s beautiful.
We’ve known each other for twenty years. Walks, meals, beach days. Heartaches, secrets, celebrations. Prayer. In the many seasons it’s looked different, but we’ve done life together and it’s been a joy.
At some point back in the beginning we started talking about faith. Hers was new and stretching, and she had questions. We’d walk the nearby hills and chat about it all. It was a challenge both ways. Me, because I needed to learn to articulate truth approachable. Her, because she needed to move past issues that stymied. In that season of unfurling, we focused on baby steps: moving out in faith, often contrary to feelings, and just trusting. And like a good daddy, our Papa would be there to catch us when we stumbled. We could just lean into His arms.
Often she’d swing by unexpected to share the triumph of a step made forward; we’d celebrate God in the outcome. At times we’d share the disappointment of faith quenched due to fear, grieving together. We’d dive into prayer.
I could freely recount the things which had tripped me up, tripped us up over the years, confident that she’d ponder those hard-won treasures, seeking out the gold. Crazy thing was, she loved me all the more for my foibles.
And it was a joy to hear her heart, pointing her to Jesus. True and honest, it’s always a deep-down delight to watch the bud of a soul unfold, flagrant in loveliness.
But at some point, the mountains in her path grew so large and she began to falter in weariness. Hopelessness, that joy thief, came to set up camp. She started verbalizing the pain that was circling her heart, vulture-like.
I don’t know why you take the time for me. Things just won’t be any different. I’ll never be that woman.
Because I’m stubborn and crazy enough to just believe, I’d come back quick.
You will. You ARE.
Times changed and we all moved, flung across the globe and losing touch. I’d often think of her, wondering how those mountains were standing. Or crumbling. Hoping that hopelessness hadn’t had the last say. Praying.
Amazingly, after four years we both came home. We were driving the neighborhood and I glanced around, shocked to notice her through my glass. I jumped out and she jumped right into my arms. We hung on tight, knowing there had been so much that needed to be shared.
So we started picking up the pieces of a friendship neglected. As the best friendships do, it all came rushing back as though no water had swirled under that bridge. Because a right and lasting friendship isn’t dependent upon words. It’s a tethering of the heart.
There had been a whole heap of growing that had happened in the interim. But those mountains, they had grown, too. Desperation had taken root. We grasped hands with tears streaming, and we knew. It was time for declarations of victory. Time to break the chains of lies, of defeat and despair. Time to bring hidden pain into the light, allowing freedom to triumph. And at one point in the process, I glanced up and caught her face, beautiful in the hunger for victory. Radiant in surrender. It took my breath, that loveliness.
Bit by bit, those monoliths are coming down. She’s determined to see this thing through, and I couldn’t be more proud. When we get right down to it, laying ourselves upon the altar can be a bit terrifying. Sanctification, it’s a death. But, oh, the glorious resurrection. So she’s pushing into the hard, and I’m privileged to run beside her, cheering.
Just like old times, she stopped by the other day. I smiled. She looked so beautiful and I told her so. Surrender, it looks good on you. Beauty in the broken. Of course she dissembled and of course I insisted, stubborn to make my point.
You ARE that woman. You’re loved by the King and He takes great joy in you. And the more deeply you delight yourself in Him, certain of His goodness, the more radiant you become.
She grinned, charming and a bit sheepish, and walked away.
Photo by Rachel Allene.