My mother had beautiful hands. They were small and delicate and her fingers were perfectly tapered and ended with nails women today pay a small fortune for.
My hands are perfectly functional, but rather large, with oversized knuckles. My fingers are long without a hint of a taper, but I can grow the same nails, although I can seldom be troubled to maintain them. Nevertheless, my hands mimic the graceful movements my mother effortlessly produced. As a very young girl, I watched her movements for hours so as to precisely duplicate them.
I next turned my attention to my elder sister, Debi. She is one day shy of being exactly 18 months older than me, and for most of her adolescent years, she had to deal with a copycat little sister who frowned and pouted and sulked whenever she was less than thrilled with my mimicry. Most of her girlfriends were agreeable to a certain amount of sharing, but even they wearied of me copying their hairstyles and makeup.
My pursuit of a unique identity that included the things about the women I admired the most involved many a classmate as well. I remember Laura, in the seventh grade, who from my perspective, lived an ideal life. No brothers existed in her world, just one older sister who seemed to cherish her. They worked side-by-side, without the petty jealousies and competition for attention that seemed to plague my home. She was soft-spoken, unfailingly kind and wore the prettiest glasses I had ever seen. I nagged Mom and Dad relentlessly for glasses just like hers. They finally gave in and scheduled an eye exam. No one was more surprised than I when the optometrist said I definitely needed prescription lenses -- I just wanted to look like Laura.
My search for who I wanted most to be like continued even after Danny and I embarked on our great love story. His eldest sister, Sandy, was a tall, willowy blond, with the requisite two children. She was a stay-at-home mom in a lovely home in the suburbs where we spent many a Sunday afternoon watching the Denver Broncos disappoint their rabid fans. I admired her a great deal and even tried dying my hair blond, twice, before realizing that the auburn in my brown tresses, visible only in direct sunlight, was always going to turn orange when mixed with Miss Clairol. Even I knew orange wasn't the right look for me.
And so it went. Even though I was becoming who I will someday be, day-by-day, I experimented with different personas along the way.
Sunny Poole was my first spiritual inspiration. Her physical resemblance to Sandy was remarkable, as was her resemblance in terms of being a stay-at-home mother of two, in a lovely suburban home. But it was her heart for Jesus that I wanted to make my own. We met the day of my baptism and a close friendship, based on our relationship as sisters in the Lord, quickly kindled. Changes in her life moved her far from us physically and the toll that time takes means that we are still estranged, this side of heaven.
Over the years, many women have had a great influence on my life and on my identity as a woman. Some were, for lack of a better term, lessons in what not to do, but in nearly every relationship, I have found a positive character trait to emulate.
So who am I going to be when I finally grow up? Will I be like my mother, speaking graceful words accompanied by graceful actions? Will I be like Sunny, who first modeled faith and faithfulness in my sight? Does my home reflect the serenity I so admired in Laura's family of origin?
It is an astonishing thought, in a culture that affirms the self-made man or woman, that the best person I can possibly be is the person I become as I yield my will to the One who "began a good work," in me and who will "carry it on to completion."
At the end of the movie "Saving Private Ryan," the aged Ryan is seen walking slowly among the tombstones of those who failed to make the trip home, some of whom had died saving him. Trembling with anxiety as he recalls Captain Miller's dying words to "earn" this life he has been given -- a life given by the shed blood of others, he asks his wife, "Have I led a good life? Am I a good man?"
His questions are valid. The answers must ring true. Am I becoming all that Father God intended at first thought? Have I lived a life worthy of the blood shed for me?
"We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord." 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.