Saturday, April 20, 2013
One of the loveliest traditions of our church is weekly communion, particularly because our practice is to have members serve communion to one another. We all line up and proceed to the front of our worship space, where our fellow members offer the elements, murmuring "Christ's body broken for you" and "Christ's blood shed for you." It's a beautiful time.
This week I was talking with our Associate Pastor about last Sunday's service. He told me that he'd asked a lady to serve communion who at first demurred, "Oh, I don't think I could." Puzzled, he asked why. Her answer: "Because I have a prosthetic hand."
Turns out that her prosthesis was not an impediment at all. This beautiful lady held the cup steady as worshippers took communion.
But she was surprised that the pastor didn't know about her prosthetic hand before Sunday. He told me that she'd said, "I just assume. . . "
And before he told me, I could finish her sentence. I knew what she said.
She said, "I just assume it's the first thing people notice about me."
I know that feeling all too well. That's exactly the way I feel about my birthmark.
Oh, how I wish this were not so. I'd certainly never noticed the lovely woman at church had a prosthetic hand. The pastor had never noticed. Almost nobody had noticed. Yet she assumed we'd all seen it. She was certain it's the first thing we saw. But it's not.
She is not defined by her prosthesis. I'm not defined by my birthmark. And despite our self-consciousness, those attributes are not the first thing that people notice. It's not that people don't notice us; it's just that they're too busy looking into our eyes, listening to our laughs, hearing our voices to see the imperfections that seem so glaring to us.
The truth is, some people know us well and never notice.
Now, I say "the truth is," but I'm still learning that it's the truth. Last May I wrote a post about dealing with both the ugly and the pretty about myself. Imagine my surprise when a woman I'd known years ago contacted me about that post. I knew her well. She was my junior counselor at camp, which meant that we worked together and played together and slept in the same room together. We did everything side by side during that time at summer camp. There's no telling how many times we changed into our swimsuits right there in that room. Yet when she wrote to me, she told me that she just couldn't remember that I had a birthmark.
Honestly, I still have trouble believing that. But I know she's a truth-telling woman, so I'm trying to believe it.
Turns out that a lot of us have trouble believing the truth about ourselves. This week I saw the video called "Real Beauty Sketches" produced by Dove as part of its Real Beauty campaign. I wept as I watched it. If you haven't seen it, I urge you to watch it.
And please tell me: is this part of your story, too?