Mary Ann Bird grew up feeling unlovely, unpresentable and unloved.
From birth she had been afflicted with a variety of disfiguring features. She recounts her feelings- and the moment in which everything changed- in her book, The Whisper Test: “I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech.”
There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored-Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy-a sparkling lady. “Annually we had a hearing test. Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something and we would have to repeat it back-things like “the sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?”
“I waited there for those words that God must have put in her mouth, those seven words that changed my life.” Mrs. Leonard said in a whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.”
Mary Ann Bird ultimately became a teacher herself-the kind of teacher who, like Mrs. Leonard, knew the transforming power of words. Sometimes in our most foolish moments, we fantasize how wonderful it would be to be rich, famous, powerful, respected maybe even feared. But nothing holds a candle to being loved, wanted or chosen. Jesus said to his disciples, “You didn’t choose me, remember, I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit.” (John 15:16)
It’s dismal to think that the purpose of life is to simply play the cards we are dealt, one day at a time, and that no one much cares how things turn out. It’s electrifying to learn there is someone who has chosen us-just as we are-to bear His name and to do his work.
And to live all our days knowing we are eternally wanted.
Ron Naylor, Chaplain