“I feel like I know you,” the woman said as she checked out her books at my reference desk.
And she did; she had mentored me for a short time some years ago. Due to the time elapsed and her move to and back from another state, the dim recognition wasn’t unexpected. I reminded her of my name and our connection, and we continued surface conversation as normal.
A scatterbrain like me could hardly be offended; there are times I won’t even recognize a person I saw and talked with two weeks ago. But I hold to the memory of that exchange because it’s a prominent example in a string of instances where people have given me a double-take of familiarity.
Around this time two years ago I began a treatment for terrible cystic breakouts on my face. I still bear cratering scars from the experience and strange new lines along my jaw that sometimes throw me off when I see myself in photos. Along with medical treatment, I had to change my diet to remove reactionary foods. The upside: I lost a bit of weight and now feel more energy and motivation. The unexpected side: acquaintances take a moment now to puzzle out my identity.
At times I feel self-conscious when someone’s gaze lingers on me. I almost always believe they’re taking in the lines and raw blush of my skin on the gradual mend. It’s rare to find anyone with similar marks to mine, and on my hardest days I can feel “damaged” because of that.
Yet it remains an object lesson for me to hold confidently to the One who continues to fashion me exactly to His specifications. “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) Perhaps my own unveiled face teaches me to be set apart in faith, too. That is the work of Christ, isn’t it? To make us unrecognizable from our unholy, sin-encrusted natural state. If others already study me for my physical differences, could I make them linger longer on a holy joy and confidence my expression imparts?
I know the changes this experience has brought to my heart. I have a deeper trust in God’s hand, a trust that understands life won’t always be smooth or happy or spotless, but there will someday be an answer and a promise that is true. I know there’s a reason to hold fast, even when the image in the mirror reflects blotchy imperfection.
I admit, I’m quicker to want to bury my head when faced (pun intended?) with attention and sometimes even unsolicited comments. But God is uninterested in my personal vanity. I may need to expect scars with any change He deems necessary, but it’s a guarantee of beauty far beyond this mortal coil.