Her birthday loomed in the distance like a nuclear cloud. All she could do to fight from sinking was talk about how much weight she had lost. At first I was embarrassed for my friend, did she not know how she sounded? The new acquaintances in the room seemed to be oblivious, but maybe just polite. I ached for who she had become, then her cloud scuttled over and moved in on my sunshine. But what are friends for?
I crawled into bed that night and that darn cloud came with me. I imagined my arms flailing around to chase it away, like some monster mosquito, but it wouldn’t budge. The vapors stuck together like more of a soft solid, like cotton candy, only not pretty or tasty. I felt a lump in my throat.
I was worried about another friend too. My heart had held onto a few of her words as well and they were still echoing off my ventricle walls. After all these years I was finally understanding that some of her messages sounded like one thing but meant another thing entirely. If I was attentive and quiet enough I could hear the pain between the lines. And I wanted her life to be perfect, pain free.
I bowed my head and quieted my heart to pray. My husband was almost asleep beside me and I broke the silence with a silly confession that revealed my own insecurities. “I’ve been meaning to ‘graffiti up’ the bathroom mirrors in the women’s washroom at the church” I whispered in my tired husky voice. “I thought I looked pretty good in my polka dot dress today until I caught a glimpse of myself in that mirror” I continued. “Forget the whole pear shape thing, I looked like the world’s first largest black speckled pumpkin.”
I felt his warm hand stroke my back and as the strokes moved up and down in a gentle motion he began to whisper sweet nothings, but they were sweet somethings to my soul. Some ‘things’ she had needed to hear her whole life. I had someone telling me I was beautiful, and he was still lying beside me to prove it. He loved me then, he loved me now, and all she had to hang onto was the scale. All she had to convince her she was beautiful were the red numbers followed by the pound sign.
His warm hand stopped and his voice trailed off into a muffled snore. My other friend had a husband and needed him to tell her she was beautiful too. And maybe he did tell her, just not enough.
My eyes got heavy and I heard a familiar voice inside my heart whispering. I needed to tell God all about it, about them. I needed to bring their situations to His throne of grace. I needed to practice true love towards my friends and love them for who they are, self-centered rants, negative outbursts included. I needed to trust God that He would shape them and mold them, in their unique circumstances, if they would let Him. I needed to remember that life isn’t pain free, but prayers are free and He can hear them and he can lift the weight and he can blow the cloud away – for eternity.
Oh yes, and “Dear God, could you tell them they’re beautiful too, please, because they are and I really want them to hear you say it”.