The Sunday after my ladder fall, as I was feeling just good enough to get out of the house, I decided to attend the French service at our local church here in Kibuye. I took some Tylenol and headed up the dirt road to the mud brick and plaster building at the center of our campus. It was my first time out in the community with my “new” face and I got more than the usual number of stares from kids and adults as I passed them on the trail. With two black eyes, a swollen lip, and healing wounds all over my face, I know I looked like a frightful sight, but I had to go up to God’s house and give thanks for the ways He had protected and preserved me.
During the singing time, we sang a 4-line song called “My Beautifier” by a Nigerian musician named Chris Shalom. I cannot vouch for the singer-songwriter’s character or doctrine and I likely would never have heard this song were it not for the committed musicians of our local congregation. It is a simple song yet it prompted some deeper reflections that I want to share with you. The four lines are:
My Beautifier, You’ve taken away the shame // You’ve taken away the pain // You made my life so beautiful (repeat first two lines) // You’ve made me just like You.
My first thought centered around that title “Beautifier.” I smiled at the creative use of language — the term is immediately comprehensible even though I was pretty sure it is a neologism. (I checked, neither the Oxford English Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster have definitions for “beautifier”.) It also made me think of the similar term, “beatify,” which, to my understanding, is the penultimate step in the Catholic process of investing people with the title “Saint.” In a much more profound way, Christ is the One who declares us and makes us to be saints, holy ones...not on the basis of good works we have done or miracles we have performed, but on the basis of His perfect life and vicarious death and resurrection.
The removal of shame occupied me next. Having just felt the eyes of my neighbors fall on my disfigured face, that line struck a visceral chord in me. Jesus takes away my shame. It is my shame. I deserve it. And He removes it, not by snapping His fingers and causing it to disappear, but by bearing it Himself. He took it upon His person and suffered dishonor for His beloved sheep.
The same process happened for pain. Having spent the prior five days with daily pain, thinking about the effect of Christ’s work, the relief He brought through His own afflictions, humbled and encouraged my heart. This is truly a beautiful life, the one purchased by Christ.
By the time we got to that last line, I was starting to tear up. “You’ve made me just like You.” I’m aware of my lingering sinfulness and the struggle to daily love like Jesus loves...but Romans 8:30 says, “those whom He predestined He also called, and those whom He called He also justified, and those whom He justified He also glorified.” All those verbs are past tense. So in some very real but difficult to realize way, having been predestined, Christians are already glorified. And while all people are image-bearers of God, there is some special way in which the Redeemed are image-bearers of Christ. That is, after all, why we are called “Christians” (little Christs, Acts 11:26).
So my facial injuries, the source of my shame and pain, are somehow useful in making me just like Jesus. He was beaten and disfigured, like one from whom men hide their faces (Isaiah 53:3). Could my facial injuries help me to identify with Jesus Christ? Could the visible wounds and scars serve as a reminder to me and others of what the Son of God suffered for His Passion? I will then count them as a blessing and a gift, if they make me more like Jesus.
However, beyond even the cosmetic, the character development that God is working through this trauma and its sequelae conforms me more into the image of the suffering Servant, the Lamb of God, the once-for-all Sacrifice for Sin and the Great High Priest. Wow! I have a hard time wrapping my head around the genius of God that can convert something like smashing your face into the ground into a treasure of character growth and sanctification, but I that is what He did for me all in the span of singing a few lines over and over again. May Jesus Christ be praised!
Here is the Chris Shalom YouTube video — song starts around 0::45s