Short Story Saturday: Suffering and Strength

Suffering and Strength

“I have a friend who was caught in a house fire as a young woman,” Mrs. Waters mused thoughtfully in reply after a moment’s pause. “She was severely burned, especially her face. A tragic accident any way you look at it, but it was especially devastating because she really WAS unnaturally beautiful to begin with, and, quite frankly, hard to look at after everything was over. Our paths never crossed much before the ordeal and I expected them to cross even less after she recovered. But the strangest thing happened. She didn’t go into hiding. She didn’t seep in shame or bitterness, her spirit sweetened and the loveliest, kindest, most caring, intelligent, and insightful flower began to bloom. I once got up the nerve to ask her about the many transformations she went through.”

“‘I was crushed at first, of course,’ she answered. ‘Devastated. I was alive, and I should have been grateful, but I might as well have died in the fire for all I cared. It wasn’t fair. It felt like my identity was lost. I would never again be admired, never find a husband who would love me. Think of all the lonely implications. I certainly did, and it was a horrible place to be. But then it hit me in one of those strange, unrequested bursts of insight. It was a voice, almost audible: “You’re free.” I whipped my head around. No one was in the room although I felt certain I wasn’t alone. I never realized it before that very moment, but I had become a prisoner. I was convinced that I was in control, but ideals and images actually had me in chains. Expectations removed, I had freedom to dig deeper into things that mattered. I was thankful to be alive, and I began to show it. When I saw people in pain (and I looked more closely than I ever had before) one glance at my scars let them know that my life held suffering as well. I couldn’t hide it as most people do. Instead of avoiding me like a monster, they began to find comfort in my presence. Growing in love and confidence I began to see the Lord more completely than ever before. In joy I began to pursue music and counseling with unfettered abandon. I allowed myself to find my passion, and you are well aware that I found love, too. They say love is blind and with Rob, this is actually true, not that it would bother him even if he could see. It’s just one of life’s little ironies,’ she mused thoughtfully. ‘Looking back, given the places my life was heading, the burns were actually a blessing in disguise. No one in our society believes or accepts that—we place such a high standard on a particular form of beauty— but I’ll hold to it ’til my dying day. The burns set my feet on a different path, a better path. I’m blessed to have suffered and stronger because I let the sharp pain sculpt me into something better.’”

(Originally posted on my old blog, Interim Arts, on May 31, 2014)

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