I swung my head around back toward the bus I’d just exited and took in the image of the man approaching me. He wasn’t the kind of gent I’d hope to meet on a dark alley. Baggy pants, over-sized winter coat, the hoodie underneath it worn up, keeping the dark skin of his face in shadows. Whatever it is you’d call a grown boy of the inner-city ghetto, he looked and sounded it as he sauntered up beside me.
“I wanted to tell you back in Chicago,” He spoke when I responded to his ‘excuse me’ with slowing my walk and turning to him, “You are beautiful. Very, very beautiful.”
Of anything that I might have been expecting to hear, that was not it. I smiled, a bit taken aback, and squeezed out a timid, “Thank you!” with a bit of a nervous laugh.
“Very beautiful,” he repeated.
I braced myself for what would follow, thinking briefly how I would navigate the uncomfortable come-ons gracefully and politely. I knew for a fact that I looked anything but beautiful that day. I had rolled out of bed at 6am, tossed on some comfy clothes, threw my hair up in a messy bun, and neglected all forms of make-up in anticipation of the 8 hour bus ride I would be making from Chicago to Minneapolis. I had just woken up from napping in a crumpled ball in my restrictive bus seat. It was surely an empty compliment delivered in hopes that he might achieve something with it…
But as we continued to walk towards the station where our bus stopped somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin, he said nothing more. I held the door open for him, feeling obliged, and he waved it off, stopping outside for a smoke instead.
I didn’t see him again the rest of the bus journey. He seemingly wanted nothing more than just to tell me that he found me beautiful; no strings attached...
And as the fact of his random kindness sunk in, I was puzzled and touched.
For the first time in perhaps 8 or 9 years, I was in the Chicago area for longer than an airport layover. I had had the last few relaxed and pampering days with my dear dear Auntie Melissa. We had existed in an on-going soul-giving conversation of depth and laughter and tears-- while cooking, while going on walks through the neighbourhood, while having facials, while doing yoga at the gym, while driving, while enjoying a glass of sweet white wine. I cannot quite explain the beauty of such friendships as this. A few nights before my long bus ride home, I had the delightful opportunity of facing one of my many fears and speaking to my Aunt Melissa’s 8th grade youth group girls about the journey God has me on, and His faithfulness in my life. I had spoken to them about self-worth, about the lies we believe as young girls and the truth of how He assigns to us our worth; how our beauty is intrinsic. Speaking to those girls, remembering being in 8th grade myself, looking back over the years of His plan for me unfolding, was a powerful reminder to me of what it means to belong to this God.
And as I walked back out to board the bus and finish my journey, I could only look up at him with a smile. His beauty covers me. There is no striving in this beauty, there is no manufacturing it. It is Him, giving His gift of grace, regardless of what I do.
And suddenly I am reminded again to rest on this journey of life. I am reminded again to stand before Him with open hands, receiving all that He has planned-- what I'd considered difficult as well as what I would consider sweet-- knowing that He is inherently trustworthy (and "why should the heart not dance" in all of it?), and He is all I need. Realizing that this is what Grace is-- His offering me His trustworthiness through every season, through every circumstance!
Somehow, it’s His beauty and grace which invites me to trust again and again and again as I walk on in all the unknown...