I met her at a book signing. Her skin was like silken milk chocolate. Her eyes darted in agony as she strained to speak.
No matter how hard she tried, no discernible words came out. Her caregiver, hands on the bars of her wheelchair, spoke: “She wants to know what your book is about.”
Book signings can be humbling. So I make sure I’ve got a girlfriend with me to talk to just in case (ahem…) the line isn’t exactly wrapped around the building. And we had One Girl in front of us now. My friend leaned closer, and I began to speak. The caregiver walked away to look at other books.
The truth is, people don’t actually want to know what your book is about. If you start telling them, their eyes will glaze. People are motivated primarily by self-interest, so they really don’t care what your book is about. They just want to know what’s in it for them.
As I stood towering before her, I forgot all that. I’m six feet tall, and when someone is in a wheelchair, eye contact is like looking at a belly button. Somewhere in my blabbering, these words came out: “You are beautiful.”
“You are Worthy. You matter. You are precious to God, and He loves to look upon your face.”
Her eyes gushed with tears. Weeping, then wailing, quickly turned to howling. My stunned friend stepped in closer.
“You are valuable to Him, and You have purpose. You are worthy ….” The writhing and the pain surfaced, as if all the hurt (possibly from being scorned, judged, lonely, and locked in a prison from which she could not escape?) all came to the surface at once.
For me, the sun stood still. The clock stopped. The book store disappeared, and all became the life of One Girl: body broken, couldn’t speak, wanted to; limbs lifeless; heart desperate; locked-up soul longing to be set free. In this moment, God pressed “pause” on my life and taught me that brokenness can be beautiful because it cracks open our hearts to see the one thing we need to know: that we are loved in our marred nature.
On the surface this gap of time was horrible but gorgeous–this “inside-out” kind of beauty my books are about–all in a body, all in One Girl. And she showed me that broken is acceptable. That we are worthy of love even if we are all tied up and twisted and cannot smile.
I knew I had to touch her, that she longed for touch. I knelt down beside her and brushed my fingers over her hot tears and warm skin. “Do you want me to pray for you?” I asked. “Do you want Jesus to give you peace?”
She nodded, open-mouthed, tears streaming. As I prayed, her sobbing became so loud that the walkie-talkies on the hips of Barnes and Noble employees began buzzing. Her caregiver rushed to see what was the matter.
Jesus met a girl in a bookstore that day. When she left, her once-pained face radiated with peace and joy.
Do you need a touch of mercy today? I sure do.
Jesus can take your pain and give you peace. He did it for her. I saw it with my own eyes: a soul held captive, squirming beneath the weight. A body struck down, but not destroyed, for her story wasn’t over yet. If he can do it for demon-possessed, crazy Mary; if he can do it for wasted Lazarus; if he can do it for beautiful Mercy, then He can do it for you and me.
Somehow, writing the whole book series about beauty and woman’s worth, and finding your value in God’s eyes, culminated right there, with Mercy. Every hard-pressed moment of writing through my own tears transferred to wiping away hers. Jesus met a girl in a bookstore that day. Yes, He met me there.
(p.s. I was at the Texas Author Extravaganza yesterday …. you never know whose life you might touch at a book signing!)