April 26, 2008

Dear Miriam 2

capThe telephone rang. The caller was a young friend of mine--an unusually attractive girl, highly accomplished, with an outstanding education.

“I just cannot bear it!” she burst out. For a moment I was afraid something really dreadful had happened. As I was getting ready to ask for an explanation, she hurried on. “On top of all my other trials, just why everything horrible happens to me I don’t know!”

Now I was really concerned, and managed to interrupt her long enough to ask, “Please tell me exactly what has happened.”

“You know how I hate to have people drop in on me,” she began. “I want plenty of warning, so that I can be at my very best. I have such stringy hair, unless it’s combed exactly right. And my complexion looks kind of sallow without some help. So just picture this: I was taking a nap, something I almost never do, but I was so tired after work. I was really sleeping hard when I realized someone was knocking on my door. I finally managed to get my eyes open and I staggered to the door, and there they were!

From the note of doom in her voice, it occurred to me that at the very least the President of the United States had come calling.

 “And there I was, my eyes swollen from sleep, my hair looking as though it had been combed with an egg beater, and I was wearing my oldest bathrobe . . .”

I interrupted, “Who were the visitors?”

“Oh, some relatives of Marsha’s that she’s been wanting me to meet. And I really did want to meet them, but only when I was at my best. Why didn’t she tell me about their coming ahead of time?”

I knew that Marsha was her best friend, that she’d done many favors for my friend and stood by her in several serious problems. But that made no difference.

Catching a fresh breath, she went on, “I feel like the ugliest person in the world unless I have the chance to put myself together just right!” (As I indicated, she always looks great, but there was no point in my tell­ing her that.)

 “What were your visitors like?” I inquired.
“Oh, I can’t remember--they were all right, I guess, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. I was just so self-conscious about my appearance.

After a few more bursts of self-hatred, the conversation ended. I thought about the incident during the day. It seems to me that there are few things more destructive than tearing yourself down. What we hear said we tend to believe, and that includes what we ourselves have said. We simply reinforce negative tendencies when we verbalize them.

The plain fact is that all of us have to face life with whatever fate has dealt us in the way of appearance, personality, disposition, and all the rest. This is not to say that we can’t improve in all these areas. We can, and should. But when improvement reaches its limits, that’s it. To regard oneself as a second-class citizen, particularly when the facts don’t harmonize with the self-image, is detrimental.

Moreover, I suspect that Satan is rather pleased when human beings think so much about themselves, even about their real or imaginary inferiorities, that they don’t have time to think much about the Lord. And surely we can agree that when one is absorbed in himself, for whatever reason, he can’t reach out to others with a loving and giving attitude.

I don’t suppose our Lord was at His physical best after some of those long, hot, dusty walks through Palestine. But He never refers to that in His messages to us. He was much more con­cerned with giving His full time and attention to His Father’s business.