Yesterday I attended a regional training event for my business. These events happen monthly, and it wasn’t the first I had attended. Yesterday’s event included presentations from three women. It was difficult not to notice how physically beautiful they all were. They had gorgeous, long hair. Perfect teeth. Classy dresses. Each of the women was poised and spoke with confidence. Each was eloquent, intelligent, and inspiring.
After the event, I went home and recorded a short, live video re-cap to share with my team members who weren’t at the event. Then, I watched the recording. And all I could think was …Is that what I always look like? Is that what I always sound like? All of my perceived flaws and imperfections suddenly seemed magnified… a lot. I had been excited to share some thoughts with my team, but almost instantly afterward I wanted to delete it. Then I started comparing myself to those poised, eloquent, beautiful women I had listened to earlier in the day. I began thinking unkind thoughts about myself. Not my finest hour.
This morning, I woke up early, and I felt impressed to do a bit more research for the Sunday school lesson I would be teaching to my class of teenagers. In the process, God called my attention to some interesting information about the Apostle Paul. I learned that we have, in ancient writings, an actual description of Paul’s physical appearance. According to this ancient account, Paul was short and bald (“his hair was scanty“), he had crooked legs and a long hooked nose, and to top it all off… a unibrow (Source). 2 Corinthians 10:10 also indicates that Paul had a reputation for being “unimpressive” in person, despite writing impressive letters.
For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.
People have had similar responses to me, actually. Several individuals who had followed my writings for a while before actually meeting me have told me they were “surprised.” They expected someone different than me. It seems, sometimes, that people are maybe even a little disappointed by the Lani they meet in the flesh. While I have very little difficulty turning my thoughts into words on a screen, I often struggle to turn those very same thoughts into words with my tongue, whether speaking on the phone, in a conversation, or in front of a room full of people.
Our stake patriarch told me, when I was a teenager, that one of my missions on this earth was to be a “powerful spokesperson for God.” It sort of makes me laugh. I don’t feel like those women who spoke at the business training event yesterday. I don’t feel poised or confident or eloquent with a microphone. I think, like Paul, some might say of me: “her bodily presence is weak and her speech is contemptible.”
But this morning God reminded me that it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter that my hair is scanty like Paul’s (thanks to trichotillomania). It doesn’t matter that my spine is crooked like Paul’s legs (thanks to scoliosis). It doesn’t matter that my teeth aren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter whether I have charisma or impressive public speaking skills. God uses broken, crooked, unimpressive, ordinary people to accomplish great things… all the time. Jesus Christ personally hand-picked Saul, the least likely of men, to be “a minister and a witness” for Him (Acts 26:16).
Thousands of years later, people are still reading, quoting, and memorizing the words of Paul. In the end, it mattered very little what he looked like or sounded like. What mattered is that he succeeded in his mission. That gives me hope.