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Beauty Faith

What One Woman Taught Me About Longing

When David and I lived in California, the neighborhood pool was a short walk from our home. I’d wake at dawn, pour coffee, and hit the water.

There was nothing unusual about this routine until the Monday I noticed strained, awkward movement one lane over. Wiping the fog from my goggles revealed a flailing silhouette.  I waved at the lifeguard, who tilted his head and twirled his whistle. Was this blatant neglect? Did he see what I saw?

Moments later, a purple swim cap emerged at the end of the lane. The woman lifted her eyes toward the sunrise and closed them for a moment, her chest rising and falling with a long breath. Then, she stood.

She had no arms.

Seeing me, her lips peeled into a smile as if to say, “I know I’m not what you thought, but doesn’t that make this all the more amazing?”

It did.

***

***

I held the thought of her close that summer, sensing that God wanted to teach me something.

It was this: She was a metaphor for the state of my soul. Of all souls, really. She swam with an obvious limitation. Some might even say she wasn’t whole.

We, too, are born with a gap that needs merging, a wound that needs healing, an emptiness gasping for presence.

***

It’s been said that we have a God-sized hole in us. This makes us itch. We say we’re tired of Sunday school phrases.

Yes, yes –  the phrase is overused. But could it be that it’s simply too painful to hear the truest thing about ourselves?

We live in culture that says that, if we just look inside, we’ll see that we’re enough. But in our quieter moments, we sense this isn’t true.

We’ve filled our lives with good things – with friendships, purpose, and rest – and long for more in the midst of it all. We’ve mustered up bravery to face sorrow, regret, and loss only to find that sometimes we need permission to break. We’ve felt the strain of trying to perfect ourselves against a continually moving target. We’ve exhausted self-confidence to find that we can’t stand long on our own before we realize we’re broken, needy, and human.

Don’t you see our story in her?

***

***

Here’s the irony: That woman gave wonder to the world because she lived with her disability exposed, in full agreement with how she was made.

We, too, want to bring wonder into the world. We want God to move in and through us. But how is He to make our hearts his home if we’re too busy filling the space with our version of adequacy, unwilling to make room for the One we were created to need?

Our God, He’s no bully. He doesn’t push and shove. He won’t elbow his way in. He’s the gentle kind, waiting patiently at the door until it’s opened.

***

I’ve often wondered what might’ve been if that woman never accepted her physical limitation. Maybe she’d live in denial. Or lash out at everything and everyone. But she certainly wouldn’t have had the courage to swim in public.

The way to bring wonder into the world – to do beautiful things for God – is to first be brought low. This seems counterintuitive because it is. But isn’t that the way of our Savior? He humbled himself, leaving perfect communion with God to come down to the world as a child, dependent on parents and food and sleep, and was ultimately was submissive to his heavenly Father on the cross.

This way goes against the tide in these days where competence, status, and self-sufficiency are admired. But when we settle into that longing for wholeness, we agree with our design: We are only made complete in Him. He satisfies our deepest longings.

***

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1 Comment

  • Reply Allison Wixted

    Hi Natalie! Visiting from H*W! What a beautiful reminder that we all live with a disability of sorts, whether it be obvious to others or hidden in souls. This is especially moving for me, as I have a daughter with a cognitive disability. Her outward lack reminds me of my inward one and keeps me humbly connected with Christ everyday. Thanks for sparking an idea for a new blog post!

    August 11, 2017 at 11:46 AM
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