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You Are Beautiful To Me




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The devil does most of his work on us when we’re young and we spend the rest of our lives untying the knots. My day of reckoning occurred exactly one day after I wrote a note to God. It simply said: “Dear God, please show me the way you want me to go.” It was scratched on the bottom of a devotional in haste because it was morning, and I had obligations. I checked it off my list. It took only two minutes to read the devotional, say a quick half-hearted prayer and jot down a thought. I was busy. This was one less thing to do.
The very next day I woke up in a cell in Washington County jail. At first I didn’t have a clue where I was and then I did. The night previous came flooding back along with all the beer I consumed and I promptly vomited into a metal container shaped like a toilet attached with heavy steel bolts against a cold cement wall. Someone on the other side laughed and called me a name that probably shouldn’t be repeated in this story.
Terror overtook me when I realized that I had no idea of what transpired only ten hours earlier. Everything was a blur. Bits and pieces shot in and out of my conscience: Stumbling down Main Street in Stillwater. Falling into a bush and cussing. A dashed thought of sleeping in my car. Then driving. Blue, red and white lights lit up my rearview mirror. My hands put behind my back. Circulation cut off to my wrists. A mug shot. I tried dialing someone on the phone. Nobody came. The ‘Incident Report’ gave a much clearer summary of my nefarious behaviors and there I was, arrest number three and looking at about a year in jail.
I’m an alcoholic. I’m divorced. I’m a buffet-style Christian, happily going through and taking what looks good and leaving what doesn’t. Jesus was a guy with some great ideas, sure, but do I really believe He rose from the dead? I mean, c’mon. Really? I’ve cheated while married. I’ve stolen from others. I’ve seen more pornography then any healthy male ever should. I’ve lied more times that I can count and hurt people. I’ve smoked drugs in one hand while holding my infant daughter in the other.
I was ‘radiant’ all right, whenever I could numb myself with booze or drugs I was convinced I shined like the sun. I was charming and social, I was in control. I had no fear because – after all – I’ve done naked pushups on pool tables in small bars in Wisconsin on a dare, while the bar was open. I’m extreme and isn’t life all about living? Isn’t it about my desires, my wishes?
For up to a year.
God somehow managed to remove all the people close to me on that one particular weekend. (Mind you, there weren’t many.) He kept me for Himself and He indeed answered my little note by having me tossed into a jail cell only to be heckled by some faceless voice on the other side of the wall, along with a few corrections officers that made fun of the fact that, “…Hadn’t seen that high a blood alcohol level in a very long time. Must be a record!”
I wanted out. I was done. There was a full bottle of strong pain killers in the cupboard that belonged to one of the people that I lived with. Nobody was around. It was just me, and the pills.
My plan was to go for one last walk around Woodbury, suburbia. And, when I got home, the pills would be waiting and I’d wash it down with my last drink ever. My phone rang. I got texts and calls from those that God had decided to remove from me for the weekend. I ignored them all. I wasn’t even thinking of leaving a note. What’s the point?
So, I went out. It was September, a perfect day. A day meant for someone else. The sky was blue and the air was getting crisp.
I walked.
I found a thin path away from the sprawling houses and came upon a young cedar and sat down underneath it on a bed of leaves and just stared off into the distance alone. This is when I started to cry. I cried so hard that I was heaving and struggling to catch my breath. I cried for losing my Mom and brothers in a fire when I was young. I cried because I was the only survivor. I cried for my Father and step mother who abused me. I cried for finding my sister after she attempted suicide with a kitchen knife sticking out of her stomach. I cried for all the lies I’ve told, and the failed attempts to feel something more when I didn’t. I cried for the people I hurt and the failed attempts at sobriety. I cried for all the times I screamed at my young daughter when she didn’t deserve it. I wailed especially for the fact that I hadn’t – and never – would live up to the deeper dreams I had buried inside me that would never be realized. All this I did under a bony cedar tree on a slight path in Woodbury.
I got up to go, ready for this to be the end. I wondered how many pills would be necessary when I heard a voice say:
“You are beautiful, to Me.”
I’ll never be able to explain it. But maybe some of you understand. I didn’t before. I do now. A loving voice that let me know that I was indeed radiant and that there was nothing to fear as long as I realized I was in Him.
Things got better after that day. I took my lumps. It wasn’t easy and each day I surrender in humility for what Christ continues to show me. He is real, alive.

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