She wears a pair of Nike tennis shoes from a thrift store. Whoever owned them before her colored the swoosh in with a blue marker. She knows Nikes are cool, and she has a vague sense that thrift store Nikes aren’t quite as cool, but still, she hopes. It’s her first day of public school, and she is in 6th grade. She runs as fast as she can in gym class, and she beats the two athletic girls. She doesn’t realize it will make them mad, but she understands later when one of the girls slams a book on her desk and breaks her pencil. She sits in music class, months after, and wishes she could melt into the tile when her best friend betrays her in a bid for popularity. “Her clothes come from garage sales.” The whisper passed along the row turns her cheeks red. At home, she prints Psalm 27 on a piece of pink construction paper and tapes it over her daybed. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?”
She is the new girl.
She goes to the bathroom during high school lunch. She has friends, but they don’t understand her. They don’t want the same things she does. She locks herself in a stall and averts her eyes from the obscene scratchings on the door. She prays, and the aching longings of her heart seem too big and too foreign for this florescent bathed building. She goes home at night and stays up late, working on her speech for the debate tournament. A row of shiny plastic trophies are the reward she has collected. She thinks that when she’s older, she won’t care about the trophies, but she likes them now. She drinks a cup of green peach tea. She has discovered it is her favorite, and it is nice to have a favorite, a nailed-down piece of who she is. When she is done with the speech, she types essays for college scholarships.
She is the smart girl.
She gets up early to run. She started losing weight for her sister’s wedding. It felt so good, she decided to keep going. She runs at 6 am, and the rising sun paints beautiful strokes across the Arkansas sky. She revels in the grace of it, although she knows she shouldn’t be running this much. It is a compulsion now, an idol, but she cannot let it go. She goes to the cafeteria in between class and stands in line at the salad bar. The people in front of her have trays piled with plates from other stations. She will get salad alone. She wonders if she will be thin enough for the boy she likes to notice her. He never does. She dates another boy, a nice boy, but she has a feeling she is not what he is looking for. Three times he tells her in slow, measured words, “I don’t think we should date anymore.” The third time is the end.
She is the skinny girl.
All along, fragmented pieces of truth float through her heart and mind. Like pieces of a shattered stained glass that speak of the pristine original.
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood...you are fearfully and wonderfully made...holy and dearly loved.”
She keeps her eyes to the road. She wants to be invisible. The land of spice and sweat threatens to shrivel her up, and she doesn’t want them to see her: an white girl with a long skirt. She knows if she meets the eyes of men, they will leer, even touch. She sees poverty unleashed on every street corner, and who she has been, in her past, doesn’t matter. She can’t speak more than a sentence of their words at a time. What does it matter if she was valedictorian? She sees people every day who are hungry, some starving. What does it matter if she is skinny? Even her people skills, her ability to ask questions and listen gently, seem useless. For a brief and beautiful time, she discovers that who she thought she was does not matter. That God doesn’t need her to clean up the streets of Kolkata. What matters is her identity as a Beloved. She has nothing to offer. She sees her own poverty, and Redemption is a story she believes firsthand now.
She is the broken girl.
She sweeps the floor. Mops with a dirty sponge that should be replaced. Stretches to crack her back and remembers that she forgot to dust first. Life took a turn she wasn’t expecting, and God handed her a great and undeserved treasure: her husband. A calm and steady man who doesn’t wrestle with angst and unbelief to emerge at faith. He starts with belief. She is a wife, and she keeps a house. Slowly, the keeping pulls her in. It becomes important to her to arrange the things they own, to buy new things, to sew curtains worthy of a magazine page. She makes homemade bread and tortillas. Reads blogs on natural living. She finds an untrue solace in these things. Sometimes, she wonders if she has arrived.
She is the hardworking girl...or is she a woman?
But her Maker will not let her keep these false suits of identity. Her whole life, she’s tugged on clothes to make the cut, to get attention, to be enough. “Come to Me, all ye weary,” He says. She is weary. She is weary of the race that never ends, the praise she flails and beats to earn, only to find it does not satisfy.
She needs to know her true identity.
He tells her.
“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3:3)
This is who she is. She has nothing left to prove. “Follow me,” the Savior Carpenter says. “Your old rags mean nothing to me, for I have given you my robes of righteousness. You are hidden in Me.”
The tears skid down her cheeks. In this hiding place, she is free.