I want to tell you something about beautiful. In the same way that first is last or obedience is freedom. Beauty in God’s eye is not as we see it. I am not talking about six packs or hair down your back. I am not that shallow. I am not talking about sunsets and mountain tops. We know this beauty is His creation. I am talking about the kind of beauty that radiates from an authentic, pure connection to the Holy Spirit. It is one thing to radiate because you have been granted a fair lot in life. It is quite another to radiate such pure authenticity in the face of less. And to the natural eye, less is not very beautiful. But to the spiritual eye of the heart, it is the meaning of life.
I have for you two stories of authenticity. Two men who have been granted less in the world’s eyes. Pastor Joel was burned all over very much like my Uncle Paul as a toddler. While speaking to Joel, you might wonder if he ever really saw himself as different at all. While seeing him, you wonder to yourself how he could have survived such flesh altering burns. If you met him at church or otherwise, your kids would ask you what happened to him. And, like me, you would tell your kids that everyone is different, that we are all God’s children and it is the inside that matters to God. Since he is greeting kids and families anyway, you would probably bring your kids over to say hi so that they can learn to approach rather than look on or stare from a distance. This time, however, there was a lovely, young woman holding a little squirt in her arms – – right next to Pastor Joel. Knowing little about his personal life, my own square mind took its time placing the family as belonging to each other. Joel introduced my Leila to his little round faced baby and his wife. My mind took a moment to wrap its corners around the face of that little angel. I walked away with thoughts of authenticity. I walked away with thoughts of what a joy it must be for Joel to see the likes of his own face. Without making too many presumptions, it is my thought that Joel is about as authentic as one can be. If Joel’s not so aesthetically attractive face doesn’t speak beauty to you, then seeing his perfect child is the reminder to us as to what true authenticity is. Like a perfect child is the way in which God sees Joel. How do I see him?
You see, gentlemen like Pastor Joel and my Uncle Paul don’t get the pleasure of relying on beauty in the world’s eyes. Whoever they are, they are. No mask to paint or inject or lift. No face to hide behind.
This past Sunday, I began to walk into the sanctuary around the middle of the first song. I started to walk quite fast – – even though, being alone, in need of just one seat, is rather easy to come by. The gent in front of me walked a bit slower. As far as I could tell, he had a disability causing him to walk slightly slower than average. I decided to walk behind him. No need to walk so quickly past him. Without yet the knowledge, we were planned to share a service together.
We worshipped just a seat apart. We lifted our hands tall with gratefulness for the God we serve. He caught my right eye a handful of times as he so purely and authentically worshipped the Lord. We turned to each other and smiled a few times. It was his smile that tore the veil of my heart. We both sat there with communion in hand. His smile was resonating so deeply in me. My hands holding His body and His blood. The gentleman’s beauty touched me so profoundly that I paused. With my communion in hand, I went to the deep place where you know you are so unworthy of His grace, so far from His ways, His economy. So far from what He considers beautiful. And my heart just poured out in a desire to see what He sees. To find beautiful what He finds beautiful. After communion, I reached over and told him that his smile was beautiful. He said that he could feel my spirit beside him. He lifted his hands and said to me that He is beautiful. Tears kept welling up in my eyes. He just kept smiling. It was one church service, in a row together. But I found an eternal friend. Two friends, bound to be neighbors in heaven. In fact, that is what I prayed to God as I left my row to get my kids – Lord, can we be neighbors in heaven?
There are things about the Lord that I love. First is last. Obedience is freedom. Losing your life is saving it. And, beautiful is a pure, authentic connection to God. Far be it from me if I ever pretend to know anything about anything. But I will know for every minute of every day that Pastor Joel and my gentlemen friend are the faces of beautiful.