You are Beautiful in God's Eyes

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Former prostitutes and thieves learn how God views them.

Every time I go into “the church” in the prison I am humbled.

Every time I ponder: Why is it so much more vibrant than the church outside the prison?

Two weeks ago I visited Ellsworth, a women’s prison near Milwaukee. About seventy women had completed my Bible study on Idol Lies, and that night I was meeting with just twelve of them. When I walked in their faces lit up, they cheered, and I could hardly wait to hear their stories, for these daughters of God behind bars always revitalize me with their vibrant faith. They prove once again how much God loves “ragamuffins,” how His Kingdom is an upside-down Kingdom populated by ex-prostitutes and ex-thieves and recovering addicts. Heaven will be populated by ragamuffins, for they are the ones who are the most likely to realize their need for grace.

So many of the women in prison have had childhoods filled with horrific abuse and neglect. Many of them have done terrible things even after becoming His children. They struggle with holding onto the gospel, to continually believing that they are cleansed and beautiful in His eyes.

That night I felt led to teach them from The Song of Songs. As Charles Spurgeon says, “We see Jesus in every book of the Bible, but it is in The Song of Songs that we see His heart for us.” I knew they could not hear too often how loved they were. I opened my teaching by reading from the opening of The Song of Songs. The Shulammite maiden, who represents us, says: “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth.”

I asked, “Have you ever had the experience of a verse in the Word jumping out at you–giving you just what you need? Or of His still small voice whispering to you? Or of the Lord absolutely surprising you with circumstances that show you how mindful He is of you? They were all nodding, smiling. They knew. I said, “When that happens, you’ve been kissed by the King.”

“OH!” they chorused.

I went on to explain how at first the Shulammite maiden, when she sees how glorious the king is, feels unworthy, dark, and ashamed. She asks him not to gaze at her. I told them, “That is how people feel when they get close to a holy God–like Peter, who said, “Away from me,” or like Isaiah, when he said, “Woe is me, I am a man of unclean lips.” They nodded. They knew what it was like to feel unworthy. “But,” I said, “I want you to see how the King sees her–how the King sees you! He has cleansed her, made her as white as a lily, and so he reassures her–as He does each of us:

 Behold, you are beautiful my love,

            behold, you are beautiful…

                                    (Song of Songs 1:19)

Julia was sitting next to me, a frail flower that seemed beaten down by the strong winds of her life. When I said, “Behold, you are beautiful,” she began to weep. The tears were coming so fast that a sister jumped up and brought her the roll of toilet paper, a staple during our meetings. I paused and asked her if she wanted to share. She wiped her eyes, nodded, and took a deep breath.

"When I read Idol Lies I began to understand the root of some of the terrible choices I’ve made. I so wanted my mother to love me, to approve of me, to think I was beautiful. I so longed to hear her say, “You are beautiful.” Just once. Or “I love you.” But because of her own stuff, she just never could. When I was old enough, I turned to men. I wanted them to love me, to approve of me, to think I was beautiful. I did some terrible things to please them in hopes of making that happen. I did what they asked, even when it was illegal. But they didn’t love me. They used me. Shortly before I was incarcerated, I would look in the mirror and scream:

            'I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU. I HATE YOU.'  

And then, in here, through this ministry, Christ found me and forgave me. Just this morning I was walking on the track, feeling so thankful, and I told Jesus, 'Lord, You are so beautiful.' And then, I thought I heard Him whisper: 'Julia, you are beautiful.' It was so incredible I wondered if I’d imagined it. So I asked Him to say it again–but I didn’t hear it again. But tonight, when you opened the Word, you said He was saying to us:

                     Behold, you are beautiful my love,

                        behold, you are beautiful…."

                                    (Song of Songs 1:19)

We all sat there stunned. A holy moment. Finally I said, “Oh Julia–you have just been kissed by the King!” In fact, we’d all been kissed by the King at that moment, for He had moved so clearly in our midst.

 

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