Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Attractive Beard

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have a beard. Well, now I'm going to show it to you. Here's a nifty little snapshot of my chin. It looks like this (under makeup) after 12 hours,

and like this (the same spot, sans makeup, plus makeup-induced blockages) after 24 hours.

My endocrinologist was duly impressed the first time he saw it. "That's a pretty hefty beard," he said. I was tested for all the beard-causing diseases women have, but my results were normal. It was determined, therefore, that what I have is congenital idiopathic hirsutism, which means I was born with it and no one can explain its existence. Basically, my hair follicles are sensitive to normal levels of androgens.

But my endocrinologist and I have a theory. I'm a radiation mutant. My mom, a Downwinder, grew up exposed to Hanford, and her eggs were damaged. Five of her six children have at least one inexplicable physical quirk. One of mine is hirsutism. My sister has it too.

Now. I've titled this post "My Attractive Beard" even though, on a woman, "attractive" and "beard" are completely antithetical. At least to the world. God has been teaching me about who I am in Christ and how I am beautiful, even physically beautiful, despite this cosmetic and highly embarrassing anomaly, which, on some days, keeps me loathe to leave the house and grateful I don't have a webcam. I've learned a lot and found great peace and joy, and I'm excited to begin blogging about it soon via Bearded Beauty, as I share with other women what God has been teaching me.

But I just couldn't wait to tell you God's latest beard revelation, because it speaks so beautifully to His awesomeness. It's terribly exciting.

I got an email recently from a sweet gal at church. Julia. It was out of the blue from my end, but much thought and time had been put into it on her end. Her email began, "Hey! Remember me?" (of course I remembered her), and she went on to write an unapologetic "missive," she called it, about the many things we have in common, offering me, boldly, courageously, lovingly, openly...her friendship.

Well. After I scraped my mushed, melted, flattered self off the floor, I compared how I see me with how Julia sees me, and I could find only one explanation for the chasm between those two viewpoints. God. I could give you specific examples of things about my person I struggle with, ways I feel I fall short, old habits I lament regularly, personality quirks I fret about, and I could tell you how each of those undesirable things were not undesirable to her, but I'm not going to talk about that. I'm going to give a different example. One that is much more tangible. My beard.

Julia's email said, "When I met you last year, and then saw you at the women’s retreat a few months later, it was hard to get you off my mind. I’m not entirely sure why. I know one reason (which seemed very silly at the time, and too embarrassing for either of us to mention, but now feels like a warm conversation with a close friend) is that I noticed your hirsutism, and...that is one reason that I felt particularly drawn to you."

Did you catch that? My beard! My ugliest feature, impossible to hide, nearly impossible to eradicate (cheaply), definitely impossible to view as beautiful, drew her to me! What is generally assumed to be a repelling force, God used as an attracting force!

Don't miss the significance of this!

Who but our great God could take something as ugly as a woman's unwanted facial hair and use it specifically to make the woman who bears the trials of it feel not unwanted, but very wanted?

Who but the mighty Creator of the Universe could ever take something caused by nameless, faceless, heartless government officials bent on making their nation into a super-power while casting aside the citizens in their wake as casualties of oh-so-necessary nuclear testing, and use it to form a friendship grounded in care, concern, love, and the promise to never cast aside?

Who but the Lover of my soul could bring such beauty from such ashes?

But here's the thing. As it is with my beard, so it is with my personality quirks. As it is with my beard, so it is with my bad habits. As it is with my beard, so it is with my shortcomings. As it is with my beard, so it is with my struggles. God is taking each and every one of my ugly parts and, one by one, in His faithful, relentless, miraculous, loving way, making them beautiful in His sight.

And He is so totally doing the same thing in you.

"...to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor."
~Isaiah 61:3