Nine years ago this week, I went to a swing dance and it changed my life in a very unexpected way. It seems fitting to share this story, given that I spent the moments before and after said swing dance with some special girls, including dear Krista. 🙂
Well – it all began on a Saturday night when I was swing dancing with my friend Jason, and we decided to try a flip. Nothing super fancy, really, and it was something we’d both done before (with success, even). The first time we tried, I landed sort of awkwardly. So we tried again. This time, I landed on my feet…but had such momentum from the flipping that I kept right on going and hit the back of my head on the wood floor of the ballroom. Hard. Very hard.
I could say so much about next 12 hours – and the mercy of God to me in the details – of the sweet men & women who prayed from the moment my head hit the floor…of the girls who took me for a “check” at the ER that appeared all clear…of the girls who cared for me at Krista’s house when it became very clear that it was a serious internal head injury and rushed me to the (oh, so near) U of Michigan hospital…of the head of neurosurgery who happened to be prepped and ready as I arrived to perform emergency brain surgery.
Somewhere in there, I lost consciousness – and woke up Sunday morning in a hospital bed with all memory and understanding, except for the 10 hours or so just before that moment. An incredible blessing I only fully appreciated much later – in time, I fully processed how miraculous it all was (you should know my gratefulness! before I share my insecurity 🙂 ).
Well, I had to explain all of that, to get to where my story really begins. My first question after opening my eyes – “Did I have surgery or something?” as I scanned the tubes connected to me, and touched the gauzy bandages wrapped around my head. I’m embarrassed to share that the next question was “Did they have to shave my head?!” as my eyes grew wide. Yikes.
You should know that I’m not so gutsy in the hair department. I’m not one of those bold women who thinks about shaving her head for fun or to make a statement. And at this point, my hair was long – maybe halfway down my back. Now, was I grateful that they didn’t care too much about the loveliness of my hair when they quickly shaved whatever they needed to shave to make a giant life-saving incision in my head?! Yes, yes I was. For days after I was home recovering, I would switch bandages in the bathroom facing away from the mirror. Until I finally mustered up the courage to turn around….and look.
Oh. It was ugly. A long red scar with 50 metal staples holding things in place. And surrounding it, bare skin over more than half of my head. I couldn’t decide if it was better or worse that they didn’t shave it all…after all, I could pile what was left onto the top of my head while wrapping scarves around the outside. The unknowing person never could guess what was underneath. But when the scarves came off – there I was. Ugly and bare.
As the days and weeks went by, I hid what was underneath with a colorful selection of scarves. Only for a doctor’s appointment and in the quiet of my bathroom did the coverings come off. My super quick and miraculous recovery gave me plenty to be distracted by, as I finished my college semester. Not long after the semester finished, I spent the night with a houseful of girls I knew close to campus. I shared a room that night, but even at night, kept myself covered. When I woke up, my roommate for the night Jaye was getting ready in the bathroom. As quickly as I could, I started to replace my headband and scarf. But not quickly enough, as the door swung open and I was standing face to face with my friend. I stood in horror for what seemed like an eternity – with total bareness of head. And waited for her reaction of shock and alarm.
“Good morning, Beautiful.” she said with a smile, as she strolled in and continued her morning routine.
As my heart continued to beat in my ear, I stood unmoving in my surprise. Waves of intense relief poured over me.
I continued to replace my scarves, but in not such a rush. To feel accepted in my total bareness – to feel beautiful in the midst of my major insecurity. To feel loved in the midst of my ugly.
Isn’t that God?! He who loves us so deeply as we come before Him – the all knowing One – in our total bareness. With fear and trembling, we can come before Him – wondering if we’re beautiful enough, and He assures us…we are. Every time.
And the truth is, how He created us is enough. Nothing we use to “beautify” ourselves is necessary. The One who made us “fearfully and wonderfully” did so on purpose. Nothing wrong with a little beautifying, I think…as long as we know that it’s not what defines our Beauty.
I realize that the truth, in the midst of knowing we can come to Him in our bareness and ugliness – is also knowing our need for the One who makes us beautiful. Jesus, thanks for covering the ugliness of my heart – for forgiving, for renewing, for loving, for making it beautiful. And for letting us come before You in all of our bareness…and making us worthy of Your beautiful love.
Sarah lives in Dexter, MI with her husband and two squirmy little boys, Timmy (2.5y) and Nate (8mo). She spends many days learning to appreciate lego towers, superheroes, and vrooming cars – and since she was crazy enough to marry a youth pastor, hosting a variety of “youth guys” (as her 2.5-year-old says). She also works part-time at Google Ann Arbor, and probably wishes she was playing some Irish fiddle as you’re reading this on this fine St. Patrick’s Day.