Somewhere around the end of high school, the Devil jumped onto my sister’s back and started to whisper lies.
You’re nowhere near beautiful.
The more he fed her, the less she ate, and before long he was helping her hold her hair back. Day after day. She was well into her first year of college when she opened up about it and started counseling. Things got better, but not all the way. Not entirely. Now and again, the lies would grab her by the throat and she’d listen.
Then I moved away and her best friend got married. And then heartbreak happened. She was 19 when she found herself alone. It was one part circumstance and one part depression-induced isolation. But either way, it was the kind of alone that couldn’t be helped by occasional coffee dates or dinner with relatives. It was a soul thing.
Nine months later she moved to Sacramento. She and I shared a small house and when she moved in, I saw my little sister walking through a place I had just been: confusion, hurt, loneliness, and the loss of direction that comes with it. Here she was in a city and under circumstances she never thought she’d be.
I bet she felt like a foreigner in her own story. I get that.
I don’t belong here. This isn’t how it was supposed to go.
But she started seeking Jesus in it. She planted her butt on the blue couch in the kitchen and began cracking open her Bible and tearing through notebook after notebook. Fears, prayers, all of it.
At least that’s how it looked on the outside. (She may argue with me and say it was different in her heart. But that’s what I saw.) And slowly but surely, the good stuff started taking root and I saw my sis being built up again.
A couple months later, I found myself at a baby shower snacking on some fruit while someone led a devotion. The devotion was about the importance of a name as it relates to a child and as the woman continued through her notes, only one person came to mind. My sister.
The significance of her name brought me to tears in an instant. Heidi Belle.
Heidi means Noble Warrior and Belle means Beautiful. The juxtaposition of who she once believed herself to be and who I knew she was floored me. In a flash this powerful image came to life in my mind. I won’t call it a vision because I don’t know how those things work, but this is what I saw:
Heidi, beautiful Heidi, standing in front of a mass of women. There was a confidence and a power about her, a mix of ferocity and passion, and she was speaking truth. She was on some platform empowering women. Leading these people to freedom of soul.
Beautiful, noble warrior.
Tonight I went to City of Refuge again. This time for a worship night, but mostly because Heidi was getting baptized. And the whole time we sang before they brought out the water, tears just rolled out of my eyes. Couldn’t even help it. Because I was reminded of the power of Jesus when I thought of my sister’s story. She’s spent the last year with City focusing largely on a program called Shine. Guess what that program does.
It sets up shop in school districts heavy with at-risk girls. It teaches them that they are valuable, beautiful, and worthy of love.
A recovered bulimic speaking truth and life into girls who have been listening to lies.
Beautiful, noble warrior.
That could only be Jesus.
Jesus blasted her chains off, He told her who she really was, and he made something good out of something once so dark. There it is again: We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. (Romans 8:28)
This idea I keep talking about–this promise that God can and will take a situation that feels stripped of hope and morph it into something wonderful–it’s so real. And it doesn’t just apply to some reproductive disease or an eating disorder. This promise applies to every dashed hope, every busted dream, every broken heart.
Stop asking God, “Why are You doing this to me?”
Start asking, “What are You going to do with this?”
Let Him take it. Watch him breathe life into ashes. It will happen. Not overnight. Not in writing on the walls. But you’ll see. You just have to let Him.
Tonight my sister was dunked. Baptized as a proclamation of her identity in Christ–her commitment to a Love that yanked her out of the pit. Heidi isn’t who she was two years ago. She’s taking her name seriously now.
And let me tell you.
Demons quake when she walks in a room.