My husband started out so innocently, so benign, so nonchalantly: “Did you know Kelly Ripa is your age?”
And suddenly it didn’t feel like an incredibly positive question to me.
I kind of did a stammer/chuckle. “What do you mean by that, Chad?”
“Well, you know, usually I think you look younger than most women, but. . .” he trailed off.
“But what, Chad?” I moved in with intensity.
He knew he was nearing a precipice.
He hem hawed around and then came in with a comment I think he thought might make it better, but he was wrong. He was so, so wrong. “Well, actually, she’s older than you since she just turned 50, and you have a couple of months until your birthday.”
Well, there’s that!
The snarky part of me wanted to come back with some comment about Kelly Ripa’s husband. I don’t know his name, but I could identify him in a photo lineup. Maybe. I wanted to say something to my husband about Kelly Ripa’s husband’s hair, or muscles, or youthful looks.
I didn’t, which should all give us encouragement that God is still in the miracle business.
One of my reading groups in my 5th grade class consists of all girls. We are reading a book about a young teen who has basically been thrown away by society. And in one scene, someone is finally giving her a chance, someone is finally helping her, and someone has made her see for the first time in her life; she is beautiful.
I stopped the group and looked at my beautiful students. African American and caucasian. Short and tall. Blonde and dark-haired. Super petite and not petite. And I said, “Let’s shoot straight, ladies. We all know that it’s what’s inside that makes a girl beautiful but deep down, we all feel that need, don’t we? We all are looking for someone to think we are beautiful on the outside, too”. Six young heads nodded in agreement as solemn eyes studied my face. I continued, “Even though I’m old (and they all laughed, as they always do when I say that) I too still feel that way. I tell myself it doesn’t matter what others think of me and how I look, but there’s still a part of me that struggles with that. I can still remember e-x-a-c-t-l-y what a boy said to me about my body my freshman year of high school and it still stings. I can barely remember what I had for dinner last night but I can still hear his insulting remark replaying in my head all these years later.” They smiled but remained pensive. And then they opened up. Each of them, one by one, 5th graders that they are, took turns sharing about how already, they sense the pressure to measure up to the world’s definition of “beauty.”
I am known for continually saying to my class in all sorts of circumstances, “Alright, beautiful people. . .” “Good morning, beautiful people. . .” “Head on in, beautiful people.”
I reminded the young ladies of how I frequently use that phrase, and indeed, they’d all noticed over the course of the school year. I continued, “I use that phrase to remind you that no matter what the world says, no matter what anyone may tell you, you are beautiful and you will always be beautiful to me.” And then in the words which I truly meant, one girl chimed in, “And we are all beautiful in God’s eyes.”
With tears in my eyes, I nodded, “Yes! Yes. You. Are.”
It was time to end our reading group and one girl said, “We sure didn’t get very far in our book today, Mrs. Jagger, but it was good.” I assured her that sometimes in life, we needed to stop and reflect and maybe we didn’t have the best reading lesson that day but I would argue we had a dog-gone good lesson that day that was perhaps, more important or timely than reading.
So I’m not Kelly Ripa. So she’s 50 and I’ll soon be 50 and we look nothing alike. But I am beautiful, Dear Reader. You are beautiful, Dear Reader. And as my student so appropriately reminded all of us, “We are all beautiful in God’s eyes.”
May we be reminded of each and every human being’s true beauty in a world which knows very little about true beauty. Let’s go show them this week.
Until the next Wednesday, the Lord allows.