“To those of us who know the pain
of valentines that never came.
And those whose names were never called
when choosing sides at basketball.
It was long ago and far away,
the world was younger than today.
And dreams were all they gave for free
to ugly duckling girls like me.”
Years ago on a road trip back home, I listened to this song by Janis Ian. Either I had never heard the song before or I had never really listened to the words. But I found myself lost in the lyrics. Because I was driving back to the place where I grew up, suddenly these words came to life. This is exactly how I felt at seventeen! I felt ugly, awkward and most of all I felt insignificant. I don’t think this is uncommon in teenage girls, but when you are that girl it feels horrible.
We will be entering the Holy week soon and my mind is taken to the book of Isaiah where the prophet was describing the coming Messiah. And it seems that this Jesus would not have been the handsome olive skinned, curly haired man that we portray in pictures and movies. I wonder if Jesus would recognize himself in our pictures and media? In the fifty third chapter of Isaiah it says, “The servant grew up before God – a scrawny seedling, a scrubby plant in a parched field. There was nothing attractive about him, nothing to cause us to take a second look. He was looked down on and passed over, a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand. One look at him and people turned away. We looked down on him, thought he was scum. But the fact is, it was our pains he carried – our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us. We thought he brought it on himself, that God was punishing him for his own failures. But it was our sins that did that to him, that ripped and tore and crushed him – our sins! Through his bruises we get healed. We’re all like sheep who’ve wandered off and gotten lost. We’ve all done our own thing, gone our own way. And God has piled all our sins, everything we’ve done wrong, on him, on him. (*Paraphrase from the Message by Eugene Peterson)
What do you suppose Jesus teen years would have been like if he had lived in America today? From what I’ve read, I’m guessing he would have spent a lot of time alone. He would have been bullied, perhaps. I’m also guessing it would have been alright with him. I get sickened sometimes when I see the display that we put on in the name of Jesus to produce a church service; hair…makeup… wardrobe…lights… camera… action! Let’s do this service! At least that’s how it feels sometimes.
Would we have chosen the Jesus described in this passage to pastor any of our churches? Would we have even embraced him as he walked through the doors of our building? Maybe I’m thinking of myself here, but I am doubting that I would give a second glance unless simply to judge this unsightly man.
Janis Ian goes on in her song singing,
“those of us with ravaged faces,
lacking in the social graces.
Desp’rately remained at home,
inventing lovers on the phone,
who called to say come dance with me
and murmured vague obscenities.
It isn’t all it seems At Seventeen“.
When I see the picture-perfect Jesus portrayed in movies and paintings I know that it isn’t all it seems either. Jesus wasn’t beautiful, but what he represents is beautiful. He lived a short life and walked a long road for me even though I wasn’t perfect. In fact, he did this because I’m not perfect.
As we continue in this Lenten season; this holy season, I hope that we will be mindful of those who will come to services broken and alone. They will feel dirty. They will feel ugly. They may even be ashamed to be seen there.
May we have eyes to see beyond what turns us away from embracing the one who feels insignificant.
This post was written by Amy Potts.
*All photographs, unless otherwise noted, are the photography of Amy Potts
Amy is a motivational speaker who shares her personal story candidly with humor and with passion. She was a guest columnist for a year in the Kansas City Star’s – Faith Walk column and her writings have been published in several publications. Most recently, her writing was published in a devotional book called, “You Belong: 52 Stories to Strengthen your Purpose, Faith & Relationships” which was a companion to the BELONG Tour live event for women. In addition to her work that was published in their book, her blog post “You’re Beautiful” was featured on their website and recently noted as one of the BELONG Blog: Top 10 Posts for 2016. A truly great honor!
Amy will be doing a lot more writing in this coming year as he prepares to write her first book. We hope that you will check back often to see what is happening here. More importantly, if you are encouraged by her writing and know someone who would also be encouraged, feel free to share the link.
Amy also enjoys hearing from her readers and learning about life from different perspectives. Drop a comment here or, if you have something to share that is more personal, feel free to e-mail her at “firstname.lastname@example.org”. She reads and responds to every single one of her e-mails and looks forward to hearing from you.[/su_b