Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: The Inner Person (09/09/10)
TITLE: The Executive Washroom
By Joanne Cordaro
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He looks like the definition of success. The navy blue suit falls just right on his tall body. A hand-painted silk tie and black wing-tip shoes add to his polished look. His clean-shaven face is topped with neatly styled salt and pepper hair. Yet even with this elegance, he still seems out of place among the gold-plated faucets and marble countertops. A slight tremor shoots up my spine. I make a mental note of my discomfort in his presence.
His outward appearance indicates affluence and power. That’s not a surprise, really, since he is the CEO of the largest manufacturer of shipping containers on the west coast. But I know about the secret he so tightly guards. Hidden beneath his outward facade, unbeknownst to the public, are tattered argyle boxer shorts, slightly mismatched socks and...scars.
I find myself studying this man as much as he appears to be studying me. As I study him, my mind begins to drift back in time. I hear the words in my head, “outwardly powerful, inwardly fearful”. It is becoming a malevolent personal mantra. You see, deep inside, “Mr. CEO” is still the scared, underfed little boy with raised welts on his back from his daddy’s belt. As a teenager, he tried to drown his traumatic experiences in alcohol and marijuana. Later, in a complex psychological twist, he even created some scars himself.
He was known as Kip in those days. Kip grew up with a kind of fear that abused children know so well, but of which most others have no frame of reference. Although his body still bears scars; his psyche bears even worse scars. It can be said that physical injuries heal, but the pain of being unloved, remains forever raw.
Today, his business associates see a formidable leader, unshakeable in the boardroom. His friends see an enthusiastic sailor who never met wind nor wave he didn’t like. His church family sees a faith-filled man, generous with time and money. His child sees a man who loves him unconditionally. It is only his cherished wife, Lee-Ann, who sees his unguarded insecurities.
To hear Lee-Ann tell it, from the beginning, he was focused on becoming a gentle man who rose above his violent beginnings. It was not until their wedding night, that Lee-Ann even knew about his scars. That first night, she gently traced them with her fingertips. It would be years before he, consumed in tears of shame, allowed her to actually see them.
The night Lee-Ann actually saw the scars, she accidentally walked into their den and saw Marshall kneeling in deep prayer. She says she barely recognized his voice. He was on his knees, rocking back and forth and weeping. It broke her heart to hear him in such deep pain. She heard him beg Jesus to help him.
Lee-Ann says she’s never known anyone to pray that way. Now, when she tells of this night, she admits, “I was envious of the intimacy he had with Jesus. It was as if he placed all his longings, his shame and even his wounds, in Jesus’ safe hands. I half expected to see Jesus with His arms around Marshall comforting him!”
Lee-Ann’s favorite part of the story is when she tells of Marshall’s explanation. Marshall told her, “Jesus knows my fears and my failures. He knows each scar. He even knows the fragments of hate that still lurk within me. He knows me as Kip, and he knows me as Marshall. He knows me as Mr. Sammons, CEO, and he knows me simply as Danny’s Daddy. And, even after knowing all of me, he still loves me! Jesus knows what it’s like to be broken. Through His love and grace, He took the shards of Kip, with all those ragged edges, and melded them with Marshall’s dreams. I became a new creation through Him.”
Thoughts suddenly return me to today, in the executive washroom, with this man. I continue to stare. The man unexpectedly smiles. I smile back, at my own reflection in the mirror.
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