For the 30 years of our friendship I have thought that Heidi is a nice person and a good friend. But recently I noticed she is beautiful.
Now, after the fact, I see that the realization has been dawning on me gradually, in any number of encounters over the last few years. But it didn’t quite hit home until I was with her at the bird sanctuary in the company of a few other people one afternoon.
In C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce, a visitor to heaven spots a lady in the celestial parade who is so beautiful that he nearly asks his tour guide if she is Mary or some famous saint:
“Not at all,” said he. “It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.”
“She seems to be … well, a person of particular importance?”
“Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two quite different things.” …
“And who are all these young men and women on each side?”
“They are her sons and daughters.”
“She must have had a very large family, Sir.”
“Every young man or boy that met her became her son—even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door.”
The main thing I wish to share about my recent observation of Heidi is that it spoke to me much as a good sermon communicating the gospel of Jesus would, and it produced at once a shame and a godly zeal to be like her in holiness. All the hard work—the Lord’s and hers—in bringing about the transformation of Heidi was done in private, and I know some of the situations that God used to kill what needed killing, and to cause this lovely lady to emerge from the ashes of those deaths. People can always tell when you have suffered in obedience, though they cannot put their finger on it.
Paul said of the people of Thessalonica:
“You became imitators of us of and the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything.”
When the Lord brings to completion what He has begun in us, through His Spirit and our willingness to die to ourselves, the extraordinary thing that happens is that the rough edges are smoothed away and the fullness of the potential of the personality God foresaw from before the dawn of time is released. The new person is at once wholly different and yet completely familiar and recognizable. And next to others who have not been transformed, the contrast is stark, like looking at a clean white shirt alongside dingy clothing.