Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Fat Lips of Life

This is kindergarten Jeff.

When he was tiny, he decided to leap into somebody's arms. Only problem was the person had no notion of the impending leap. Jeff ended up in the ER with stitches and a big, fat lip. See?

Odd thing is, the fat lip never went away. It stayed. The above photo is several years after the leap. Jeff spent all of his elementary years with that fat lip.

This is junior high Jeff.

When he was in sixth grade, he got smacked in the face by a wayward tether ball pole, and that made the other side of his lip fat. See?

That fat lip never went away either. Jeff spent all of his junior high and high school years with an even fatter lip!

This is my Jeff.

He's in his late 20's in this shot. All his cells have stopped dividing, including his lip cells. See?

His double fat lip is barely noticeable because the lip cells in between the two fat parts grew up and filled things out nicely.

When people look at Jeff, they don't say, "Wow, he has a double fat lip leftover from childhood injuries."

They say, "Wow, he's got a great smile!"

(Well, that's what I say, anyway... Also, he's an exceptional kisser. But I did not just say that in public.)

In my Bible study this morning, I put something together I had not previously internalized. In Matthew 4:1, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. Now, James 1:13 says God does not tempt anyone, but it's clear from your life and mine that God does not universally protect us from trials. Consider His servant, Job (Job 1:8).

What we do know is that God causes all things to work together for good (Romans 8:28) and we are to be thankful for the trials He doesn't shield us from, knowing that the testing of our faith produces endurance, which, in turn, makes us perfect and complete, lacking nothing (James 1:2-4).

Jeff had pain and suffering with his childhood fat lip. It was all crooked. Not perfect or complete. Lacking symmetry.

God could have fixed that one fat lip.

Instead, He allowed Jeff to get another fat lip. Still not quite symmetrical. More like... a camel with two humps instead of one.

But as Jeff continued to grow and mature, the result, if you'll forgive me, was a perfect, completely full lower lip, lacking in nothing.

And I gotta say Jeff's big lower lip is a greater blessing because of what it's been through.


Just sayin'.

A few years ago, God gave me a fat lip. The fat lip of rape. As I recovered, He taught me an invaluable lesson:

"I love you. Love Me."

This year, God gave me another fat lip. The fat lip of suicide. As I recover, He is teaching me another invaluable lesson:

"I love you. Love others."

All the law and the prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40).

Two commandments I would not understand if it weren't for my fat lips.

Right now, I have two noticeable fat lips... like a camel with two humps instead of one. But as I continue to grow and mature, Scripture promises that someday, I will be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. A greater blessing to others because of what I've been through. Fat lips completely masked by a grin of pure joy.

(Or pure caffeine, as the case may be.)