Two nights this week, I sketched people at functions at a couple of our Baptist churches. Bogue Chitto Baptist Church, perhaps 70 miles north of North Orleans, packed their fellowship hall with children of all ages Wednesday night. I drew them for an hour before church and nearly that long afterwards. In between, I preached a revival sermon, then sketched and colored pictures for the four adults who had brought the most people to the services.
Friday night, Metairie Baptist Church held a block party in their parking lot and asked me to join the fun. Surrounded by balloon artists and food stalls and inflated playthings and crowds of people, I drew for nearly three hours. To my left, people at a table were handing out free Bibles. To my right, at the balloon table, a man could be heard going over the plan of salvation at various times.
In between, I was drawing. Trying to give people a little treasure from their visit to this church.
Occasionally I’m asked, “How many people have you drawn over the years?” With no way of knowing, I just pick a number. “Maybe a hundred thousand.” No doubt the real number is a lot less, but again, there’s no way of telling. A lot, that’s for sure. Especially when you consider that this all got started when Mom was exasperated with her preschoolers getting in the way of her housework and gave three-year-old Carolyn and five-year-old Joe pencil and paper and sat us down at the kitchen table. Soon I was off and running. I had found my calling. Sort of.
Sitting there tonight in the parking lot, looking really silly wearing a balloon hat the guy at the next table had fashioned for me and with a line of children and parents stretching out in front, I was struck again by several lessons about people that are reinforced everytime I do this.
1. Everyone is different. Way different. No two are alike. Not even twins.
2. Everyone is alike in many ways. Two eyes, one nose. The things they say.
3. Everyone is beautiful. In some ways, to some extent.
4. Everyone looks better smiling. But try to convince some people of that.
4. Everyone is curious as to how others see them.
5. Everyone is a little insecure about the way they look. If we could, we would all change something about our appearance.
I sound like a broken record (remember those?) after a while, with the comments I make to the person across the table, whom I occasionally refer to as “my victim.”
“Say cheese…. No, I mean, smile…. And hold it a little longer…. I’m not a kodak…. This will take a minute or two…. What do you mean you don’t like your smile? You have a terrific smile. Trust me on this.” (As they smile, I see the problem: a gap between teeth, stained teeth, crooked teeth, something. I know the problem, having had dental issues all my life.)
“Look me in the eye, please. I’m trying to draw your eyes and I don’t want to draw them looking down…. Up here…. My eyes are here. That’s it. Okay, give me the smile again and hold it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your nose.” (Or chin or ears or other body parts the subject has just asked me to change or ignore or improve.)
I tell them, “You see yourself in the mirror and check out the various parts of your face, and you’ve decided that one part is wrong. The problem is, you can’t see how the parts all fit together. We do. And you look just fine.” (Have to be careful here. Don’t want to lie to the individual, don’t want to flatter needlessly, and certainly do not want to come across as flirting with those of the female persuasion.)
Sometimes, if we have time and I have the inclination, I’ll tell about the Miss America I met a few years back. Now, I could not give you the names of two of those celebrities in the last 30 years, but I happened to remember her. She was an outstanding Christian, often giving her testimony at evangelistic crusades. And she had these prominent teeth. What it was, was that her two front teeth were just a little longer than the others. I thought it made her distinctive looking, and apparently the judges did also. Anyway….
Six years after her reign, I preached a revival in her home church. She sang in the choir every night and her deacon husband sat on the front row. On Thursday night, a group of us went to their home for refreshments. Her husband invited me to see the gallery of pictures from her year as Miss America. The hallway displayed large photos of her and the president, her and Bob Hope, her and other well known people. When we finished, I said, “She looks different now. What is it?” He said, “After her year’s reign, she took part of her money and had her teeth fixed.” Ground to a point and capped to line them up with her other teeth.
Even Miss America did not like the way she looked.
Don’t like something about the way you look? Welcome to the human race.
Decades ago, I heard a Bible teacher make a statement about this that has lingered with me. He was talking to believers, of course, and said, “If there is something in your appearance interfering with your service for God and it can be changed, if you are able and wish to do it, then change it. But if it does not interfere, then accept this as who you are from the hand of God. And give Him thanks.”
Imagine–giving God thanks for the way you look.
Not a bad idea. And think of all the neuroses that would cure!
My mother still laughs about a Guideposts birthday card someone sent her a while back. On the back was a brief account of a family gathered around the table for a meal. The little boy, about five years old, asked if he could say grace. In his prayer, he said, “And Lord, we thank you for this wonderful little boy you have given this family!”
The Guideposts writer asked the reader, “How long has it been since you have thanked God for yourself?”
You’re much more special than you know. Christ thought so. He would not have paid such a price for you unless He thought you were worth it.