“Why is that man so ugly, and the mommy so pretty?” Five-year-old Nancy tugged on her mother’s arm, and pointed.
“Sh! Sh!” said her mother. “You wouldn’t want them to hear, would you?”
“But Mommy, he’s ugly! How can that pretty lady stand to look at him?”
The mother glanced toward the couple her daughter was pointing at, quickly taking her child away. But every day during the sea cruise, they saw the couple. Whenever they did, Nancy buried her face in her mother’s clothes. “Mommy, I just can’t stand to look at him. He is so ugly,” she would say.
One day Nancy and her mother, Maria, were on deck, enjoying the sea breeze. The beautiful woman came and stood beside them. She spoke a soft greeting, smiling down at Nancy. Smiling shyly back, while snuggling close to her mother, the little girl blurted out. “Why are you so pretty, and your daddy is so ugly?”
Maria gasped at her daughter’s rude question. She was about to scold her when the young woman spoke. “No, wait!” she said, “I’ve noticed your child looking at us quite often. I would like to tell her a story about my husband, if you will let me.”
Maria, although quite embarrassed, nodded her consent.
“First,” began the young woman, “My name is Rosella. What is yours?” Learning that the child’s name was Nancy, and her mother’s was Marie, Rosella invited the two to a table, and ordered three glasses of lemonade. And then she began her story.
* * *
“Five years ago my mother and I were visiting in Florida, where we were staying at a hotel. At the same time there were some service men billeted at the same hotel. One very handsome colonel took special notice of me, persisting that I dine with him. He sent flowers to my room numerous times, and smiled at me every time I happened to come across him. My mother encouraged me to accept his offer of a meal. So, at last I did. It was then he told me that he had fallen in love with me. He asked me if I would like to see him on a regular basis. But I found him most obnoxious, and tried my best to ignore him.
“On one particular day I was especially rude to him, and I know it really hurt him. I had gone into the hotel gift shop to pick up a book to read. And there it was that I came face to face with the colonel. He smiled. He had a beautiful smile, and it made his already handsome face–well, he had the face of an angel. But I didn’t return his smile. I flung my head in the air, and walked right by him. I heard him say, ‘I guess this is your way of telling me to get lost.’ I continued on to my room, and went to bed. My mother was already asleep, and it wasn’t long before I was.
“About two hours later we were jolted out of bed by the most ear splitting sound. My mother and I scrambled into our housecoats. It was then we heard the frightening words. ‘FIRE! FIRE!’ Already we could see the smoky, orange shadows encircling the hotel. Colonel Brown–that was his name–was one of the first ones out of the hotel. He watched as the hotel guests fled to the safety of the fresh air. His eyes frantically searched the group in the court yard, but my mother and I were not there. He dashed inside to see if we had made it to the lobby. We hadn’t.
“Firemen were all around, but although they tried to stop him, Lionel broke by them, dashing through the flames to our room. He kicked the door open. My mother and I, trapped and frozen with fright, were just deciding if jumping out the window were an option. It wouldn’t have been. We were three floors up.”
* * *
Nancy and her mother hadn’t touched their lemonade, so engrossed were they in Rosella’s story. Nancy had gripped her mother’s hand and her eyes were brimming with tears. Rosella paused for a minute, sipping on her lemonade; then she continued.
“Lionel snatched two blankets off the bed, and flung them at us. ‘Wrap this around your face,’ he commanded—and it WAS a command. Then tossing a small towel around his own face, he commanded, ‘Grab my arms, and don’t let go until we are outside.’
“Blindly, we allowed ourselves to be guided by Lionel, until we were safely outside. But what we hadn’t realized was that the towel had come off Lionel’s face. His face was burned beyond recognition. He was taken immediately to the hospital where he was treated for burns all over his body.
“For weeks his life hung on a thread, his face bound completely with bandages. Although he couldn’t see me, he knew I was there. My mother, by that time, had gone home. Every day I sat by Lionel’s bed, holding his hand and talking soothingly to him. At last they took off his bandages.
“Gone was the handsome face…But to me it was beautiful, more beautiful than it had ever been. He had received those scars because of me. If he hadn’t fallen in love with me, I would have been just another hotel guest, and he wouldn’t have known to single me out and worry over my mother’s and my safety.
“During those weeks of attending Lionel, I had fallen in love with him. While he floated in and out of consciousness, I crooned to him how my scorn had turned to concern, and my concern had slowly been replaced by love. As soon as he was released from the hospital, we married, and have grown more in love with each other every day.”
“But how can you stand to look at him?” persisted Nancy.
Rosella smiled. “I don’t see his scarred face. I see the face of the man he was before he became scarred. And I see the face of the one who loved me enough to risk his life for me. I see the face of the man who loved me long before I loved him. I see the face of God, because that is what Jesus did—became scarred because of me.”
Nancy and her mother saw Lionel and Rosella one more time before they left the ship. Timidly Nancy tiptoed up to Lionel, and smiling shyly, she slipped her hand into his. She tugged on his arm. Lionel, suspecting that she wanted to say something to him, bent his head towards hers. He had been used to being looked at scornfully. He had heard the remarks of both adults and children alike. He had learned to ignore them. So he was not expecting what Nancy had to say. “Mr. Lionel,” she said, smiling up at him. “I don’t think that you are ugly anymore. I think you have a beautiful face.”
Isaiah tells us that Christ had no beauty that we should desire Him. He would not have been an attractive sight, hanging on the cross, His face scarred from the piercing of the crown of thorns they had placed on His head; His body bloody from the whip lashes; His hands bleeding from the nail wounds. In the natural we would hide our face from Him, as Nancy did from Lionel. But when we accept the fact that Christ got those scars to save us, we no longer look at Him like Nancy did, with scorn. We look at Him as Rosella did after the rescue. We see the face of the One who loved us, who got those scars because of us.
…..Helen Dowd (firstname.lastname@example.org) brought to you by “Christian Voices” (ChristianVoices@att.net)