Though there were a series of stories just like these, I hold on to one. The only way I can date it is by remembering that awful blue we painted in the spare bedroom of our quaint newlywed cottage. We were painting that day.
The walls were almost dry, we were on the last coat, and maybe it was the way he painted — it likely would have been something that small — that sent my color-within-the-lines self reeling.
And I had words. Lots of them.
I had an adulthood, up until marriage, of not a lot of words like these. I was studied enough to know that these weren’t words you said out loud; but boy, did I feel them. And when I married Nate, something gave permission for that torrent within to let loose. He was safe and I was unhinged.
So I let him have it. Looks and sighs and shoulder shrugs accompanied my poison. I broke all the rules.
He had good reason to leave that day and take a breather from this woman who was much more a little girl than she was a bride-in-white. And something within me felt a drive to push him there. The mess I’d kept at bay for years was now seeping out and I wanted someone else to confirm all that I felt about myself on the inside.
I needed a lashing, right? Someone to put this shrew in line.
But he had only a few words in response.
“I love you,” he whispered in my ear as he put his arms around me, tight, his body language filling in the gaps of these pithy phrases.
“You are beautiful to me. I forgive you, even if you don’t have the words to ask for forgiveness.”
I wept on his shoulder.
How could he ever see beauty in this?
He held her with the same arms-that-spoke-words that he’d wrapped around me a decade earlier and she vomited on his chest.
She’d been his daughter in heart, for months — in person, for days, and not yet recognized as such by African law. But that didn’t stop him from searching out her beauty as a child of his own. He called her forth with strong words — “I love you. I’m not leaving.” — and this love was revolting to the child who’d bathed herself in shame.
She quite literally couldn’t stomach it.
But that didn’t stop him.
A father goes in search of the beauty, no matter how deeply it’s buried. My husband, again, was operating under a strength that wasn’t his own.
And just this week, this same daughter of his excused herself from the dinner table — still dressed in her leotard from ballet — to hoist her head high and practice what she’d learned with graceful poise.
Her eyes were fixed only on her daddy’s response.
Love that searches for beauty in dust has this way, even with the most wayward.
But I can’t wield this love for another unless I receive it for myself.
He made us not to just receive, but to abide in a love the same as that of His for His Son — that love that sent Him to the cross at the hand of angry men and resurrected His Spirit, subjected to flesh. And that love is not natural. For me to wear that love, I have to first have it imparted to me.
Here is how I find out what I really believe about how He sees me: on my children’s worst days, how do I see them? When those in my home or my world fumble, what are my thoughts towards them?
How I see others — from those closest to me to the ones with whom I simply shake hands — is my way to assess how I think He sees me. Am I looking at them under a magnifying glass, searching out their blemishes? If so, there is a good chance I believe that’s the very same thing that He does with me.
I had one in the flesh, who spoke into the void of what I wasn’t as if I really was. I was harsh and cold — rigid — and Nate told me I had love, buried deep. I clawed my fingernails into the earth to find a hold and he told me that he saw adventure in my eyes. My world had gotten small with control and he called forth this woman who was made for freedom.
Many would label that insanity. Was this husband living a fantasy, a crazy concoction he’d made? I danced around the same argument in my head. Nate saw things in me that were the opposite of who I’d made myself to be, before Him. His perspective couldn’t be reality, I thought.
In fact, it wasn’t.
Nate had tapped into a reality more real than the hand in front of him.
The love of the Father sees the “not yet”, and He calls it forth. He makes dry bones breathe. He loves in a way our natural minds cannot conceive, and that love paints us, stunning. He doesn’t look past our sin with a Pollyanna perspective on our goodness, but sees through it with forgiveness to the image of Himself underneath.
We weren’t made to wear a love that calls out what it sees with its natural eye, we were made for a love blind in its own merit, yet fully dependent on Another for its vision.
Any perspective by which I see myself or another is false, unless it is from Him.
Our churches are full of sons and daughters still subconsciously feeling they’re orphaned and making judgments of one another with this perspective as their emotional and spiritual foundation. The bride doesn’t know she is beautiful, said a friend recently.
And when you don’t know you are beautiful, you don’t act beautiful.
The heart of my child, the actions of my husband, the decisions of a friend, the mission of the church down the street that is Bible-believing but differing from some minutiae of my theology, are all opportunities to search out the heart of the Father towards them.
What might happen if we started to see with His eyes? What if we set aside the fine-toothed comb we’re tempted to apply to those around us and, instead, salvaged those minutes for conversation with Him? What if we made a practice of saying, Father, how do You see them? Often. Stemming from, Father, how did You see me?
What if His Word shaped my reality of love, instead of my personal understanding of love being the thin-grid around which I wedge His Word?
The bride around us — sleeping in our beds, eating at our table, meeting us for tea — might start to believe she’s beautiful.
I am becoming the woman Nate saw in me a decade ago.
They are becoming the son and daughters we saw in them before they even called us Mommy and Daddy.
His perspective changes everything for His bride.
And He identifies her not by her mess, but by Himself within her.
She was made in His image.
For Your Continued Pursuit: Isaiah 61:3 | John 15:9, 11 | Romans 4:17 | Ezekiel 37:1-14 | Genesis 1:27 | 1 Corinthians 2:9 | Psalm 139:17-18 | 2 Corinthians 11:2 | Ephesians 1:17 | Romans 15:7 | Song of Solomon 1:5