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Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Perfect Beauty

Voluptuous blonde actresses and famous well-built athletes: What do they have in common besides million dollar salaries? One common denominator I observe is the illusion of perfection, modeled by their outward appearance.

This philosophic thought came to me at the post office. Long lines of impatient customers and rows of tiny post boxes do not usually produce an atmosphere of contemplation. But today, I gazed at the stamp designs, enlarged and framed. The splashy illustrations showed perfectly formed bodies. The drawings ignored inborn flaws of ordinary people. As I inched forward to mail my package, I pondered the committee’s choice of stamp heroes.

Did a special stamp commission or maybe a government bigwig vote from a list of persons whom they emulated and revered? Let me describe a person they should have chosen. She is not a glamorous blonde, but has been a beautiful redhead for her 47 years. Or, she did have red hair, before radiation and chemotherapy. She has had brain surgery and a bone plate removed from her skull. She now sports a large hollow spot, her scalp sinking in a four-inch wide circle on the side of her nearly bald head. A large U-shaped scar surrounds that indentation.

This description doesn’t match the images on those postage stamp portraits. But I am certain my sister is more beautiful than any Hollywood legend. She is better qualified to be honored on a stamp than any big-name athlete.

My sister Marilyn has an inner beauty that a scalpel cannot mutilate. Radiation may destroy her hair follicles but they cannot destroy her soul. She models her life as a Christ-follower and has her eyes fixed on a crown. She gives glory to God in all her circumstances. Her earthly tent may be stricken with brain cancer, but the core of her being has not changed. In the face of terminal illness, she has strong faith—even on the hard days.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 (NIV)

In spite of physical misery, she remains motivated to help others. She’s wheelchair bound, so she phones: Ordering gift books, giving words of encouragement; words of witness that everyone can be made whole and forgiven through Jesus Christ.

And I have overheard her side of a phone call with a friend. I have seen her smile when she answers, “Fine! And how are you?” She was not stretching the truth because deep in her soul she is fine. Her healing will come—she knows it. She has told me Jesus may heal her exactly as He did the lame man of the Bible. One moment in time, from broken to whole, instantaneously. Or, she said, He may choose to heal her when she sees His face in heaven. She has come to the point that she is fine with either outcome. This is what makes the anguish of disease bearable. The hope of heaven, walking in The Way, even when a tumor steals your legs. Marilyn knows she is on the right path.

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Proverbs 31:30 (NIV)

So I shall write the Postmaster General: “In hearty recognition of a person who should be featured on a commemorative stamp, I do hereby nominate Marilyn Grimm Sturm.” But, hey! I forgot. If you have your tiny portrait printed millions of times on thin paper with zigzag edges and a sticky underside, it’s no comparison to your name printed once in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Marilyn Sturm has already received the greatest recognition of all.

Kathleen Grimm Welty © 2010, printed with permission

Author’s note: This tribute was written as a gift to my sister, my forever-friend. By God’s design, He gave me the words while she was still able to read and comprehend my great love and admiration. Two months later brain cancer claimed her life here on earth.

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