Looks can be deceiving and first impressions are not always on the mark. In chapter 7, Lee shares how her first impressions of two different people deeply affected her and her concept of forgiveness. As she went about writing this book, she interviewed many women who shared their stories of forgiveness which led her to question her struggle with what she needed to forgive in her own life. Two women, in particular, had a profound affect on her. Carolyn and Nadia were as different in looks as any two people could be. Carolyn was the definition of class and of confidence… hair perfectly styled and lipstick just so. Lee met her at a workshop given by Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor who has a very unique approach to ministry and sports short spiked hair and numerous tattoos. But in their souls, as Lee was to discover, these two women were very much alike. She was surprised to learn that Carolyn, a judge in the Washington D.C. court system, volunteered at a home for men suffering from AIDS. She lived out her faith in the grittiest of environments where she was surrounded by death every day. Her looks belied her calling.
Carolyn gave this definition of beauty: “I believe beauty is being able to see God in people. Even if you don’t like them, if you look and see God created them, they have worth. They matter. Working in the AIDS shelter taught me this. Now I look for it in all people.” Nadia’s comment that “Our brokenness and our imperfections are the spaces where we stand in need of God in a way that we don’t in our excellence” stirred something within Lee. Her first impressions of Nadia and Carolyn were shattered… she felt humbled and convicted by her misguided judgments.
As she reflected on these two women, these words flowed from her heart and as I read them, I was overwhelmed with my own need for forgiveness. I felt led to share my thoughts on this prayer…(note her words are first and my reactions follow each sentence)
• Father in heaven your name is bigger than anything I can understand. o God, I feel I am not worthy to even utter your name. You are beyond anything I can comprehend.
• Can you help me? o Do you even see me? Will you find me worthy of your attention?
• Can you help me understand that you aren’t mad at me for judging people, you aren’t mad at me for putting people into categories and making them fit in the mold I want them to? o Open my eyes to your love and to your forgiveness. Please do not be angry with me for my mistaken first impressions. All your children are worthy of love and who am I to say they are not.
• Father can you forgive me and all of us here on earth for spending so much time like little junior high kids playing kickball, saying who’s in and who’s out, who is good and who is not? o Accept my weaknesses and my judgment of others who I deign to be less than I am. Who am I but a sinful human just as they are.
• Can you forgive me for thinking that my will is best? o Oh, my need to be in control is such a stumbling block. Remind me on a daily basis that you are in control, that you hold all the power.
• I need forgiveness in my jealousy of that woman and her fancy yoga clothes, thinking she has it better than me or that my life would be complete if I lived in a house like hers. o My life is full of petty jealousy. My wants far out shadow my needs. I WANT a bigger house, I WANT a better car, I WANT, I WANT, I WANT!
• I need forgiveness in my piety, thinking that just because I don’t swear, I am better than someone else. o Forgive my self-righteous attitude. We are all the same in your eyes.
• Help me to forgive the people who made me angry and who didn’t offer me what I needed and help me to forgive those who hurt me. o Strip me of the blanket of hurt that I wear and open my heart to offer forgiveness for those wounds.
• Lead me not into the land of walls and religiosity but into a country where I can be like Carolyn and Nadia and live out of the bountiful blessing of love and forgiveness that you offered all on the cross. o Help me to walk in my faith on a daily basis and to live out that faith.
• For you are God who sees me, the God who searches for me, the God who created me and everyone else. o Remind me that I cannot hide from you. You see my thoughts and what is in my heart and you created me for good.
• Thank you for forgiving me again when I put my foot in my mouth and when I yell at my kids. o Help me to accept your forgiveness for angry words, for demeaning looks, for not showing your love.
• Thank you for allowing me time on this earth to struggle. o Make me grateful for the trials in my life so that I learn to depend on you.
• Thank you for surrounding me with others who teach me love and forgiveness. o I am grateful Lord for who you are and for who I am. Help me to see those around me who need to know you too.