Wednesday, March 8, 2017

My name is Stephanie...Not Skinny

It should have been an uneventful, simple introduction followed by an exchange of first names, concluding with a customary "nice to meet you." But not today. Not this interaction. Not this new acquaintance.
The dialogue began ordinarily. I greeted the new face before me a with hello, soon followed by the traditional trading of names, "My name is Stephanie." As expected, the woman replied by providing her name and a friendly "nice to meet."
Most introductory stories would end at this point but it was at this moment that a commonplace conversation took an unanticipated turn.
"So your name's Stephanie?" the woman said. Before I could reply she went on, "Or maybe you should be called Skinny?" I responded with a little chuckle and a vague, noncommittal response that my new acquaintance missed entirely because her soliloquy was off and running. 
"People must think you're a kid... You look like one. You probably wear kids clothes. I mean, come on, you can't weigh even 100 pounds. You don't, do you? No, you just couldn't."
In the matter of seconds every thought this woman had about my petite frame was out in the open air. Her words came out so effortlessly, without even a moment's pause. She had never laid on eyes on me before, barely knew my name but was entirely comfortable making personal commentary on the very form of my being. One quick visual inventory and this woman's thoughts and opinions were off and running - out loud and without any filter.
At one point in my life, a point not so long ago, this style of tactless bombardment would have brought a lump in my throat as I fought back tears. But not today. Not after seven years of rude, thoughtless, heartless commentary aimed in the direction of my weight and size. Not after countless sets of eyes judging my frail physique. Not after being stared at and approached by complete strangers on the street airing their thoughts and base-less opinions.
"I have MS... That's why I am so small." I paused, giving the woman time to respond, but for the first time since our conversation began she didn't have anything to say. So I continued, "You just never know what truly causes a person to be the person you see."
The rest of the exchange with my new, unfiltered acquaintance was minimal. She never offered up an apology, although she admitted that her comments probably sounded rude. I neither affirmed nor denied the analysis of her statements. I just smiled an effortless, genuine smile.
It was at that moment, when confronted with hardness and opposition, that I had a beautiful realization. This woman's words had no power over me. They didn't hurt me. They didn't rob me of peace or dampen my joy. They didn't shake my spirit. Her words didn't bring even a hint of a lump to my throat.
This woman is just one of many in a world obsessed with making criticisms and judgments for every shape and size. When given the power to do so, their harsh words can can cut to the core and cause the spirit lasting pain. 
But God tells me to pay no mind to the comments of the world. Listen only to the Lord's voice and hear His life-giving truth.
The truth is that God sees my heart, knows my size down to the ounce, and doesn't call me Skinny. He calls me Stephanie and He calls me His beloved. God doesn't look at me like the world looks at me, judging by my outward appearance. God looks exclusively at my heart.
Beloved, when you and I are fully known by God we need not fear the comments of man. United with Christ, identified with indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can claim the freedom and peace of His acceptance and grace. By the power of God, you and I can be bombarded with the war of the world's words and smile with genuine joy because we are confident in whose we are and who we are in Christ.

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