"You look beautiful."
That statement hung in the air between us. To hear it, not just as words or an offhand compliment, but as a heartfelt observation and truth was something completely different.
It wasn't something I said or something I did. And it certainly wasn't what I was wearing. No. It was a spontaneous comment on two separate occasions from two women I deeply respect. One my spiritual director and another a friend I hadn't seen in a few months.
Really, the comment caught me off guard. The last few weeks have worn me down with their frantic pace. I am serving as the interim director of the community center, trying to keep activities at the center running smoothly and at the same time serving the neighbors I have dedicated my work to over the last two years. All the while, trying to balance ministry, family, friends, community, and sanity, with mixed results.
So, understandably when I heard the beginning of the statement, "You look..." coming out of their mouths I had expected some other adjective to fill the void.
Tired. Rundown. Stressed. All would be fitting candidates. But there on the third syllable of their declaration lay a surprise- Beautiful.
"You look beautiful." At first, I was taken aback, resulting in a prolonged pause. Did I really? If this woman who I trusted was telling me that's how I looked, it must be true, even if I couldn't quite see it.
You. Look. Beautiful. I ran that statement, word by word, through my head after our conversations were well over. I had to pause at each word to understand what they were really saying. Quite literally they were saying, I was giving off the outward appearance of something wonderful.
Looking at myself, I couldn't quite perceive that "something wonderful" in my outer appearance. That's not to say, that I wasn't aware that something wonderful has been going on inside me. But, I figured it was buried under everything else going on around me.
You see, over the last few months, the Spirit has been moving within me and I have felt more and more called to the novitiate (i.e. to formally enter into becoming a sister.) That motion by the Spirit has required motion on my part and on that of the congregation I want to become a part of: the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Philadelphia (Chestnut Hill). It is a step on the journey that officially began over a year ago and unofficially began about a decade ago; it is also a step that will make the biggest change in my journey thus far. You know, little things like leaving my job, moving into a new community, and dedicating myself to two years of prayer, study, and experience to help deepen my relationship with Jesus and prepare me to make vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience... And, as of last week, I have officially been approved to enter the novitiate in September!
As I continued my conversation with one of the women who had pointed out my striking appearance, I came upon the story of the Transfiguration. Surprise. Light. Fear. Guidance. Glory. Joy. Return. All are aspects of the story and all continue to be aspects of my own story. Yet, in the midst of it all- the chaos of the last few weeks, the many aspects of the story- there is transfiguration. That is, as the definition says, a change in outward appearance or a change so as to glorify or exalt. In these ways, I have been and continue to be transfigured.
Hopefully, that process will never stop. Transfiguration and transformation are the work of the Spirit in and through us. It's something that rings in our ears, something wonderful that takes hold of the whole of our being. As it grows, so do we into the ever-expansive love of God.