I’m a regular supporter of the Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that supports and ministers to the persecuted Church all around the world. For over a year I’ve received their monthly magazine. I’ve grown accustomed to seeing pictures of burned down homes, separated families, and destroyed Bibles as a result of a person’s faith in Jesus. But the picture on the front of one publication demanded that I take a more heart-felt look.
It’s not a picture you would expect to see on the front of your average magazine cover. It’s the type of photograph that will literally take your breath away and make you turn your eyes toward something more pleasant. The whole page is covered by the face of a young Indonesian woman whose features are disfigured and scarred by burns. Even after several plastic surgeries, her face is still discolored, making her look like a character out of a horror movie. Her missing eye adds yet more authenticity to the cruelty that was done to her.
Tears filled my eyes as I looked at the pitiful face. How could someone justify burning someone’s village at the expense of this girl’s life? How could so much hatred fill someone that they would rejoice in a young woman’s disfigurement? Didn’t they know the pain and embarrassment that she would have to endure the rest of her life?
We don’t see this kind of persecution in America. We should all be grateful. But this photograph made me realize how vain we truly are. We get frustrated over acne scars and a hair cut gone bad. We feel abused if we’re not wearing the latest styles from the mall. We pout when Dillard’s is out of our favorite make-up or perfume. That we even have a face doesn’t inspire our gratitude when we fall short of having these things. What’s truly most important and beautiful is totally forgotten.
In God’s eyes, there’s no other face more beautiful than one given for the sake of the Gospel. This Indonesian woman’s outward scars are a testimony of her inward love and devotion to God. Though it cost her pain and a face that looked like the rest of us, she was willing to give her all to the One who allowed His body to be scarred for her freedom.
Most of us would buckle under a situation like this, our joy suddenly snuffed out because of the hardship. But this young woman’s face is anything but depressed. Though her smile is disfigured, and her lips incomplete, her countenance radiates with the joy of the Lord. It is a shameless smile that says she would do it again, grateful to be counted worthy to suffer for Him (Acts 5:41). It’s a smile that, despite everything else, inspires me to cradle her face in my hands and say, “You’re beautiful.”
And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony,
and they did not love their lives to the death.