This Valentine’s Day is approaching the two year annivesary of D-Day (that is Diagnosis Day for cancer patients). I will gaze at my bride across the table tonight and see the same beautiful woman that I saw two years ago. The sparkle is back in her eyes, the hair has returned and Joni looks wonderful. Tonight I will treasure the moment. But I remember a lesson from the cancer journey. Beauty is so much more than the standards our shallow society sets forth. Here is a piece I wrote during our breast cancer trial.
One of my smart aleck remarks that I use periodically is that “I am not burdened by that whole maturity thing.” There are many times when I go about demonstrating that in real life. But the unwelcome intrusion of “life” into my happy little routine has caused me to evaluate a lot of things. God is teaching and revealing a lot of things to me during our cancer journey.
1. I am clearly a work in progress as a follower of Jesus.
2. He has done a lot of work over the years that I was not aware of until this cancer trial came along.
Last night I had the weird privilege of helping clip off the rest of my bride’s hair that was falling out from the chemotherapy. As I reflected on that moment later I realized that nearly everything I knew about beauty when I was 25 years old was wrong. Like most men I looked for appearance first and then tried to find some good qualities. Joni was a stunningly beautiful woman when I fell in love with her over thirty years ago. I have often said that I married my trophy wife first and got it over with. I also joke that I married her to deepen my gene pool. And she has done that admirably. One of the ironies of this cancer journey is remembering how much I loved Joni’s long hair in the early years of our relationship. In fact I got upset when she cut it a few years into our marriage without discussing it with me. Her hair was a real part of her beauty in my stunted male view of what beauty in a woman means.
To be completely honest I wondered how I would react when the chemo therapy had its inevitable effect and she would be bald. Oh, I knew I would say the right things. I am not that stupid. But how would I react inside? Would it matter more than I cared to admit? And that is when I realized how much God has been working over the years. He has been retooling my thinking and my heart. Patiently. Quietly. Lovingly.
Joni’s hair began to give up while I was on a recent trip. She decided to get the buzz cut while I was gone (again without discussion). So I walked in the door and she, in typical Joni fashion asked, “Want to see my head?” When I did I realized what God has been doing over the years to a shallow and selfish guy. He has been changing me and what I perceive to be beautiful. Because the truth is that Joni is as beautiful to me today as she was with that long, shining hair thirty years ago. That is because I am learning what beauty in a woman really looks like.
Some days are better than others. I am grateful for the days when the sparkle returns to her beautiful blue eyes. Those eyes are the windows to a soul that has more depth than I could ever achieve. She is remarkable. She is my hero. Her faith inspires me. Her smile still lights up the room. I treasure each moment that I can make her laugh. The sound of her laughing is like a symphony to me. I have learned that beauty is so much more than what the world and testosterone ridden young men (or, sadly, many older men) think it is. Beauty is a package. One part physical to be sure. But beauty in the covenant of marriage is also emotional and spiritual. When I fell in love with Joni I just thought I was marrying a foxy lady. I was really too stupid to know I was marrying a gift from God. The classic description of a Godly woman from Proverbs 31 fits her pretty well.
Who can find a virtuous and capable wife? She is worth more than precious rubies. Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life…
She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs with no fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and kindness is the rule when she gives instructions. She carefully watches all that goes on in her household and does not have to bear the consequences of laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all! Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.
I married an amazing women. Right now she happens to be bald…and so very beautiful.
Today Joni looks very much like she did B.C. (before cancer). But I pray I will never forget that her beauty is so much more than I once thought.