Carly's smile was as fake as her pleasant tone of voice. "Oh, he asked you to the Valentine Banquet? That's great! You'll have so much fun!"
As soon as she could leave, she fled to the utility closet and silently cried out her frustration and anger to God.
"He asked her and not me; I was hoping and hoping!" Floods of tears streamed down her cheeks.
"I know she's pretty and all, but she doesn't even CARE about him, and I care so much!" Burning anger mixed with her sorrow.
So, it had come to this. She could hardly even remember a time that she had not had a crush on Jake, the boy of her dreams. She had tried to look better, so she could compete for his attention, but every five pounds lost seemed to lead to ten more gained. She wore glasses, and her parents were firm on not allowing her to get contacts until she was at least 15, and her teenaged skin was a riotous mess, to her great despair. She tried to wear stylish clothing, but not much was available in her size.
In short, she tried and tried, but failed and failed.
Her thoughts swirled while she sobbed out her grief over this latest setback, and the drab janitor's closet perfectly fit her mood.
"Why can't I be more like her?"
"Why can't I be better?"
"Why did You make me like this?"
After a few more minutes of mourning, she ducked out of the closet and into the bathroom and pulled herself together the best she could.
The social time following the Wednesday night Teen Bible Study was just about over when she slipped back into the recreation hall, and she was just in time to hear the announcements.
"If anyone is not attending the Valentine Banquet as a guest, we sure could use some help in the kitchen--we're short-handed!"
Carly signed up for kitchen duty, figuring that would be the easiest way to get through the evening, since every church event was a family affair for her household, and she'd be in the building anyway, like it or not.
Just before she fell asleep that night, in the quiet sanctuary of her bedroom, she cried a little more, and wondered again why God had made her like she was--ugly and rejected, excluded from the best parts of life.
That question became a quest for her in the days leading up to the banquet. Why did God make me this way? Or, did God make me at all? Yes, He did. She firmly believed He had created her, and that it was her job to work with the raw materials.
When she sifted and dreamed, and imagined and conspired, she still saw herself falling short. "Even at my best, I'm still not good enough for Jake. He'll never even look at me twice. I guess it would be best if I just gave up. Yep, that's what I'll do. Forget competing, forget rejection, and forget about him, once and for all."
That resolution lasted until the night of the banquet, when she peeked out from the kitchen and saw him in a suit, a rare sight.
She took her position at the industrial-sized sink, rolled up her sleeves, and never turned from her dish washing duties the entire evening, until every last spoon was dried and returned to its home in the drawer, then she worked with the church social coordinator, Stacy, to take down the decorations and restore the room to its usual appearance. (Stacy offered her a ride home so her parents didn't have to wait around.)
On the drive home, Stacy seemed to want to say something, but was hesitant. "Carly," she began, "I've had a strong urge from the Lord over the past few weeks to direct you to a Bible verse, but it wasn't until tonight that I knew which verse. This is going to sound strange, but when we finally finished and I was reaching for the last light switch, I saw that it was 1:31 a.m., and I knew in my spirit..." She struggled to speak--it wasn't often that God laid something on her heart so clearly. "Carly, read Genesis 1:31 when you get home. I don't even know what it says, but I know it's God's message for you, tonight."
Carly read the verse with wonder:
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. Genesis 1:31, NIV
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