I often say it. It’s usually met with curious reaction. People have to think it over because it sounds a bit strange and possibly irreverent. When I see someone who models the life of Christ in their life I tell them, “God looks good on you.”
God looks good on you?
There was that time when a high school girl considered my comment as a way of saying she was pretty. Creepy. It simply means what you are doing in your life is beautiful. Godly. It models the life Christ demonstrated when he walked the dusty roads advocating social justice, grace, and salvation. It is selflessness.
I think it is the highest compliment. James 1:22-27 bounces around in my mind.
How does He look on you? A question I try to answer every day.
What a sweet girl. I’m going to call her “Mary” in this blog. This, of course, isn’t her real name. At first glance you might not recognize Mary’s situation. She is good at hiding her fear, anger, doubt, and sense of worthlessness. I was introduced to Mary by one of her teachers at the middle school she attends. This wasn’t a chance meeting. It was set up by a teacher in an effort to help Mary sort through her issues. Her “Issues” sounds cold and judgmental. What would you call them?
Mary is in a “Broken family” situation. Her father isn’t in the picture. Her mother, while sharing the same house with this sweet girl is also absent. A young girl longing for love, acceptance, and compassion. Things you would expect at home. She often goes without food. One of her punishments is being locked out of her house which means she sometimes sleeps in her backyard. Her beautiful mind has been destroyed. Mary’s 7th grade body subjected to the perverted actions of adults. I am sickened by the thought. She wears the same clothes for days at a time. Her hair strategically positioned to hide her face. The face that is looking at her toes because her self esteem is below zero. Calling these “Issues” seems inadequate. I don’t have a word for it. I see Mary and I see a child in desperate need of love.
About this teacher.
Leslie Graham is a middle school teacher. This means she always smells like Axe body spray. Leslie is also a Christ-follower. When you meet Leslie you might think she is a bit strange. She is. Leslie has another life outside of the classroom. I call it her alter ego. Mild-mannered teacher by day. Roller Derby queen at night. She is the captain/founder of a Roller Derby club. That’s right. Roller Derby. She perfectly represents the Roller Derby persona. She is who she is. I never want to make her mad.
Leslie grew up in a Christian family. There came a time when she found herself questioning God. She became angry with God and would even go so far as to say she went through a period of entertaining atheistic thoughts. Until Christ became real in her life. Until Christ came after her in the midst of her angry defiance. She was radically saved. Maybe that phrase is overused. Aren’t we all “Radically” saved? Let’s make it more clear. Leslie was changed. Today she is a Jesus lover in the pure sense of the phrase. It’s a beautiful picture. One where conviction is on obvious display.
Leslie’s position as a teacher doesn’t end with imparting scientific knowledge to her students. She views her position as her ministry. As her ministry. Let that settle. Her life is not her own. It was purchased at a price. Her position is merely an avenue to serve the God who saved her. So it was no surprise when she sends a text and ask me to come meet this beautiful middle school girl. Her heart is broken when she learns the details of Mary’s life. She is in a desperate state. She begins to bring extra food to school every day. She inquired about Mary with the school counselor. Her suspicions are realized when she learns the ugly truth surrounding Mary’s life.
This is a burning bush moment for Leslie.
In September, Leslie and her partner Nichole Quillen started a Roller Derby club for teenage girls. It’s more than a club where teenage girls learn the skills of Roller Derby. It is a ministry. Leslie uses this ministry as a means of physically training teenage girls and in the process building their self-worth. Naturally this was a means of reaching out to Mary. She is invited to join the club. Roller Derby can be expensive when you factor in all the equipment required. Equipment required to keep you from concussions, broken bones, and numerous other injuries. You might think this could be a roadblock for the girl who literally has nothing. Did I mention Leslie loves Jesus? All of the needed equipment wouldn’t get in the way of compassion. Everything she needed was supplied. The monthly fees waved.
We just have to get her there.
Mary finally takes Mrs. Leslie up on her invitation. It wasn’t easy. People who live with neglect and abuse develop a weird sense of misplaced shame. It is a means to hide who they believe themselves to be. Mary doesn’t want “Charity.” Leslie would have to be strategic. Demonstrate love followed by developing trust. Leslie is patient with the process because she understands this call. Her patience pays off when Mary finally attends a practice. She finds acceptance there. She isn’t judged by her outward appearance. She learns that love can be unconditional. She receives praise. This is a strange reality for the girl who only knew criticism. I’m certain she didn’t initially trust this outpouring of acceptance. She must have thought Leslie wanted something from her. She is loved. She is valued. She is accepted. The only criteria is she attend, work hard, and follow the rules of the club. She agrees. Mary is on the road to becoming the next Roller Derby queen.
“Can you come by the rink today and meet Mary” read Leslie’s text. Leslie kept me informed of Mary’s progress. I couldn’t wait to meet her. I hoped for the opportunity to encourage and talk to her about the lover of her soul. I didn’t meet the Mary I imagined.
All Roller Derby girls give themselves a skate name. Names like, “Lil Sparky,” and “Mad Cat.”Names intended to give you insight into who they are and how they compete. I never want to tangle with “Mad Cat.” Mary chose her name. It says everything about this outpouring of love from her teacher and her club. Her chosen name icludes the word “Awesome.” Mary thinks she is awesome. This middle school girl who wouldn’t look you in the eye out of shame and anger called herself “Awesome.” Her hair, once pushed over her face in shame now arranged to reveal her glow. Her “Awesomeness” apparent. When we meet I am amazed at this picture. Could this be the same girl Leslie described? It’s crazy what compassion, love, and a heart so in love with Christ can do for a person. As we talk she looks me in the eyes. I see hope there. I am overcome with emotion. Leslie wants me to talk to her about Jesus but the truth is she already learned so much about Christ through Leslie’s life and compassion. There was nothing I could say in that moment that wasn’t obvious through Leslie’s life. I feel inadequate. I honestly feel dumbstruck. All Mary knew about Christ was demonstrated in and through Leslie’s life. It wasn’t through a mindless speech or cheesy gospel tract. It was through a life so committed to Christ that it poured out into this little girl.
God looks good on Leslie Graham.
The gospel is meant to be lived as well as spoken. Consider the life of the one we follow. His response to his detractors when asked the most important commandments in the Law; “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ”Love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus spent His entire ministry teaching and living this out. He gave sight to the blind, paralyzed people can walk, the marginalized now loved and accepted. Outcast women and people with disease matter to Christ. His life given, offered up for those who had no chance with God. Grace personified.
This middle school girl matters to Christ. I wonder how many people missed the opportunity to be His hands and feet in Mary’s life. How long was she waiting for someone, anyone, to come to her rescue? Jesus must have looked on in frustration. Who was willing to be His presence? Mary needs so many things but what she needs most is Christ. The lover of her soul.
In the same spirit of the Prophets of old and fearful yet willing Christ-followers mentioned in the New Testament, Leslie said, “I will.” Her “I will” makes people feel awesome. It makes me feel awesome because it displays a beauty that can only be described as Godly. I want to be more like that. A modern parable reflecting Christ.
God looks good on Leslie Graham. How does He look on me?
|Leslie Graham’s alter ego . . .|