Wednesday, January 19, 2011
The Most Beautiful Woman in the World
Just last week, for instance, I sat chatting comfortably with a friend in her living room. As usually happens, our conversation meandered from God to pets to our own insecurities and on to those people who have influenced our life in significant ways. My friend does not consider herself beautiful. In fact, she isolates herself somewhat with the worry that her physical struggles will make others uncomfortable. Yet as she spoke of her mother, of their closeness and of the legacy of faith her mother left behind, tears wet her cheeks and a singular beauty stole over her countenance. I wish she could have seen herself at that moment.
Back in Vermont, I served in a presidency with my friend Jen, a woman who prefers to stride through life with her tough side turned out. I used to love watching the transformation she periodically exhibited (quite against her will, I think) in our meetings. With Jen, one can read the mood of the day by her clothing. Black does not signal joviality. On one particular day, I walked into the room to find my friend dressed in black, dark eye shadow to match the decided frown on her lips, arms folded and a personal bubble the size of Texas radiating out from her glare. We began the meeting with our usual prayer and proceeded to discuss the needs of the women under our care. I stole a glance at Jen now and then. Soon, she began to melt. The face relaxed, the bubble began to recede just a smidge, the arms dropped, and she leaned forward almost imperceptibly. Cursed with a high sense of duty and a heart far too big for her own comfort, Jen cannot long resist a peaceful spirit. The melting ice revealed a beautiful woman.
My friend Trisha also suffers the curse of a high sense of duty. With a large family and stewardship over hundreds of women, she gracefully carries the weight of responsibility, yet feels the stress of gifting out her time and energy in pieces to the hefty demands of each day. The other day, however, I noticed something different about her. She seemed lighter, at peace, more whole. A weekend with the girls, away from all the "shoulds" of her daily life, had generated a spa effect. Always lovely, just then she was the most beautiful woman in the world.
I think of other beautiful woman moments I have witnessed. My mother laughs freely with her granddaughter, their bond unmistakable. My young voice student finishes her first recital, the thrill of the moment in decided contrast to her original terror at the thought of performing in public. Filled with inspiration, Jennie teaches a Sunday lesson to the young women she has served with love, her whole countenance shining with her conviction of their potential.
Gabriela Mistral, the Chilean poet, said once, "Love beauty; it is the shadow of God on the universe." I find the search for those shadows infuses my life with divine moments.