The pedicure had ceased to be relaxing. The assault on my ease-of-life endeavor had started nearly the moment the young woman sat down at my feet. I don’t like making people feel bad so I didn’t say anything when she used to much force with the cuticle pusher. I simply turned my head to the side and tried to re-start the conversation with my dear friend. Since I was on voice rest it had stalled out a little bit though she made a gallant effort to carry both parts. Then the girl cut into my toe I involuntarily let out an “ouch” but still tried not to make a scene, purposed to work on breathing and, for the most part, ignored her.
But then came the foot file.
I have horrible callouses on my feet and I am perfectly used to the foot file but this was something else. It was as if she had purposed to take my foot down a size. When the first two, reflexive withdraws didn’t give her the hint that perhaps less force was desirable I finally opened my mouth and said… “that hurts!” to which she replies “okay, I’ll let it soak a little longer first.” Oh dear God! After a second round of near-torture I told her it was okay just to leave the callous and go on. But there was no return to relaxation. I was frustrated, hungry and in pain. We were over-due to bring lunch back to the house for the kids and I couldn’t even talk to my oldest friend who I only get to see once a year. And now, I needed to supervise this, clearly inept, attendant sitting at my feet.
That was the point.
I started to look at her. Round face, tattoo, different dialect than the other girls, more tattoos… burn marks. Up and down both wrists. The clear sign of cigarette burns, the most recent still scabbing. I started listening to the broken babble between her and the other girls. The story came in fractured pieces. “How long have you been in the states?” I inquire. “Five months.” She’s from Vietnam. She might as well have been from a different world. Iowa is no Vietnam.
I didn’t try to force conversation. The salon was clearing out now and I knew exactly why I was there and exactly what needed to be said. Just twelve hours before I had read some stirring blog post about “seeing people” or something like that. You know, the ones that go viral and make us feel good about ourselves when we re-post them. Even if we don’t actually do what they talk about. I had been asking God, to help me see people. To walk around and see what He saw. To treat people how He treated them. Now here she was.
She finished and stood. I reached out for her and puzzled she reached back. I took both her hands and flipped them over.
“Did you do this to yourself?” I ask tracing the marks on her caramel skin.
“Yes” she says without pulling away.
She tries to sigh, tries to smile. “Because I was sad.”
So I looked her straight in the face and told her she was special. I repeated it. People don’t burn themselves because they are sad. They don’t kill themselves because they are sad. They don’t drink to oblivion because they are sad. They do these things because they don’t have value. Everyone gets sad sometimes. But when you feel like everything that’s ever gone wrong is intrinsically your fault… that is another matter entirely. She doesn’t know she’s His precious child. She doesn’t know she’s precious at all. We exchanged names and hugs and with tears in my eyes I implored her to stop. She smiled and kept nodding. Then I left. I don’t really know that I did enough. I’ll never know.
I got on stage for the that night. It may sound narcissistic but I not-so-subconsciously dedicated my performance to her. Why? Because it took nearly every ounce of courage I had to get back on that stage and I knew she was going to need courage. Courage to see herself differently. Courage to make different choices. Courage to let herself hope for something more. In the grand scheme of things a play doesn’t matter much but it was the one thing that was personal to me that evening. The one part of my heart I could send to her with a prayer. Dear God, give her the love and courage to believe. To make whatever brave decisions she needs to make to get to a better place.
We don’t do brave things when we don’t know who we are. We stay in bad relationships. We continue in destructive patterns. We avoid responsibility and excellence. We medicate ourselves into mediocrity and passivity and never venture beyond the stagnant numb. Maybe you’re there. Maybe you don’t know you’re loved. That you’re valuable. That you are specifically created for something unique, purposeful and beautiful. That you have value in the eyes of God as you are right this very minute. Such value! Oh, it’s so trite, here written out. Blah! Blah! Blah! God loves us… Oh, Holy Spirit, give my words power. GOD LOVES YOU SO MUCH! You are not alone. You don’t ever have to be alone again. He understands your pain. He really does! I wish I could hold your face in my hands right now. I wish I could look into your eyes so you would believe me and say with the same conviction I told that little one at my feet “You are special.”
If you are a believer- if you already know these things please find the one this week. That one person who is hurting and unseen. Ask God for His eyes this week and let’s start giving people back the hope of God’s love. Just show kindness. True, unadulterated kindness. Speak to the heart. You don’t have to have a sermon, or a poem, or any number of words at all. Just look for the pain. Look for the need. Look for the gap and move towards it. God himself will speak into it. That’s what He desires to do. Just be willing to be there.
Father, I am not always so open and so willing. Truly, I would have missed your precious daughter for the price of a good pedicure. Thank you that you know even that and are mindful of my weakness. But help me, and anyone else who so desires to walk more like you each day. To find the leper, the prostitute, the weary, the fearful and not shrink back from their pain. Help us to move confidently towards each other knowing that the healing God of all mercy, wisdom and power is waiting to flood us with His wondrous, loving presence. Thank you for all that you are doing. Please help us to continually look to you and not to our own methods, wisdom or willpower. Ever leaning on Your steadfast character and sovereign guidance. To you be all glory, sweet Jesus. Amen.