Many years back, I was the guest performer at a church in Wisconsin. Before the concert, I had been sent to change my clothes in the church nursery since there was an adjoining bathroom that was private. I was dressed earlier than expected and had time to kill so I roamed the nursery looking at the toys scattered around the room. In the corner was a doll lying on the floor. She was face down, naked, and was in rough shape from all the years of rough handling. Her hair was matted and there were numerous scuffmarks over her body. I picked her up, looked at her for a long minute, and said out loud, “I know you. I feel like you tonight.” Sounds funny to write but I was not trying to be humorous at the time. I was tired, disillusioned with ministry, and felt that the person who would be taking the stage was not the person I thought I was on the inside.
It’s hard to believe that this doll was once new in a box. She was a gift that lit up some young girl’s face. But that was long ago. Now, she’s been around the block a few times and has gotten pretty streetwise. As time passed (and the church was kind enough to give me the doll), I realized that I felt like that doll each time I pictured being alone with God. I couldn’t imagine Him looking at me with perfect love and acceptance. Tragically, this is how many, and probably most, see themselves. Looking up into God’s face and keeping eye contact seems frightening.
At the birth of Daughters of Promise, God was doing a lot of deep work in my soul. I decided that I needed a new representation of who I was in Christ. How about a new doll? Not really being a doll person, per se, I was intrigued to go to a doll collector’s store. In the store window was a doll sitting in a white, wicker, rocking chair. She was wearing a white eyelet lace dress and her blond hair spilled so beautifully over her shoulders. I was quite taken and asked the store owner if he could go get her out of the display so I could see her. A nametag hung from her wrist that said, “Jule”. And the back of the tag explained her origin, that she had been hand made by a German artist who was well known for her creation of life-like hands and feet. What captivated me most about Jule, though she was exquisite in every way, was her eyes. They looked real and seemed to gaze right through you. I purchased her that day and thought her name appropriate. Jule – the apple of God’s eyes.
Jule and the naked doll (I named her Hope) are in my home now. For years, they sat side by side in my office. They represented how I used to see myself and who I came to understand that I am. For a long time, this was the end of this story.
But, there’s now a twist. I paid many hundreds of dollars for Jule so was very careful when I traveled with her. I taped her eyelashes down so they wouldn’t break. I braided her hair so it wouldn’t get knotted. I wrapped her in bubble wrap and then wrapped her again in an Amish made baby quilt. And when I went to pack the naked doll, I just threw her in the suitcase. I figured, “How could she be any more damaged!” But after an event, an experienced doll collector asked me if she could see the naked doll. After examining her, she informed me that she was valuable. Worth a couple thousand dollars. After recovering from shock, I realized that I had been bubble wrapping the wrong doll! Don’t you love it?
The next time I looked at Hope, the naked doll, I realize that THIS is the one Jesus comes to put His arms around. THIS is the one to whom He says, “I have called you and you are Mine. Thought the mountains may tremble and the hills may be shaken, my covenant of love with you will never go away. I have you inscribed on the palms of my hands.”