I hope you don’t mind me calling you ‘Stranger’. I know that you are familiar but you’re so different from me that you might as well be a new person. I recognise you because you look a bit like me in some ways, but in all the ways that matter, we’re miles apart.
You’re me, a year from now. Or maybe two years, five years…ten years? I hope not as long as that because I want to be you, and I don’t want to wait that long. You would know how long it’s been, but I can’t ask you, because I’m way back here. I just get a glimpse of you from time to time.
I know you must be older than me but you don’t look much older. Your hair has more grey than mine, but you still do it the same way. A quick blast with the hairdryer and you run your hands through it; it’s good to know you haven’t come over all salon-fresh in the years that have passed. I can’t decide if you have more lines round your eyes – I think maybe so, but it’s not what I see when I look at you. I see a woman who smiles more. A woman who cares as little as she ever did about grey hairs, but it’s as if the things she did care about have gone. The stuff that engraved those deep frown lines between your eyes – that’s gone. It’s gone! You’re transformed.
Where are those lines? I can see them still, but they’re not obvious. They’re reminders of the days of worry and anxiety, but now when you look at them you don’t try to smooth them away; you smile as you remember how hard it used to be to lay down troubles with God. How you used to hang onto your anxiety and how tightly clenched your fingers used to be. I look at your shoulders now as you walk and you are relaxed, at ease with yourself. You’re not tensed up like I am. You’re swinging your arms, comfortable in your own skin. I see you’ve lost that habit of clutching your cardigan defensively tight around you as you walk. I wish I could do that, but I need to cover myself up, you see.
I know you see – you have been where I am. You don’t feel the need to hide any more.
Here’s the big question, and I’m trying to make up my mind. Are you thinner than me, future self? I hardly dare ask you, because right now, where I am, I hate the way I look. I hate it so much that it’s taking over my life. I have an idea that God has something for me regarding my body image, my self image, my self esteem, whatever I should call it, but I don’t know what it is, or whether I have to somehow work it out. I know that God doesn’t want me to live like this, and when I see you so free and unselfconscious, I feel tears in my eyes as I long to be a woman like you
I look at you and I know that God has done something. Whatever precious gift He gave you, you took it, you unwrapped it and you put it on. You never took it off, did you? You’re wearing it still.
It looks great on you.
I think you are a bit slimmer, but it’s hard to see. Somehow it’s not what’s important, is it? You walk along and your head is high and there’s a contented smile on your face. You’re happy being you. How do you do that? Where did that apologetic feeling go? How did you get rid of the long- held conviction that you are not worth the space you occupy? I want to know how you did it.
Oh, it’s such a comfort to me to see you like this. I love it when I catch sight of you.
You are a different woman. I know you intimately, I don’t know you at all, but I want to know you because you look like the kind of woman who could help me. You look like the kind of person who would stop when you saw me watching you with despair in my eyes and you’d sit down next to me and tell me it’s going to be alright. You’d confide in me that you haven’t always been like this, and if things can turn out alright for you, then they certainly can for me. You’ve got a big smile, and although your teeth are just the same as they always were, you don’t care any more if people see them.
You’ve learned that your smile is more important than your teeth. You’ve learned that who you are is more important than what you look like. You’ve learned that food will never give you the comfort and reassurance that you’ve been looking for for almost all your life and you’ve made your peace with that, because your comfort and safety are found in God. I can see what a huge thing this has been for you.
You’ve learned that you are precious and unique and loved; so, so loved. You’ve learned that your worth doesn’t come from what other people think – and those lessons have been absorbed deep down in your soul. It’s not just head-knowledge any more, not just theoretical.
You believe it. You found the Truth, and it has set you free, hasn’t it?
Finally, you’re free.
I’m envious of that confidence that I see as you slip out of my sight again. I want to be where you are, but I don’t know how to get there. It seems like a vast mountain to climb and there are days when I just can’t imagine that it’s possible. So when I see you and it’s clear to all the world that you’ve made it over that particular peak, it gives me a bit of strength.
I don’t know how to take even the first step, but I know that in time, He will show me. I think – I hope – that it’s going to be soon.
He won’t leave me behind.
Thank you for giving me hope, stranger. It’s been nice to see you.