I’m updating some content from my first book, Be the Change. In doing so, I’ve thumbed through all three books and see that many of the people I’ve written about are women – our contemporaries and women from history who have made a significant difference in the world. This month is Women’s History Month and I’ll be posting a few stories of some of the women who have inspired me.
One of those women is Amy Carmichael. She grew up in Ireland in the late 1800s. As a little girl Amy desperately wanted blue eyes, but her eyes were brown. Her mother had taught Amy that if she prayed, God would answer. So one night, before bed, Amy prayed that God would give her eyes of “smiling Irish blue.” The next morning, she hopped out of bed and ran to the mirror, but was heartbroken to see that her eyes were still brown. Her mother heard her crying, and explained that God always answers prayer, but sometimes the answer is “no.” In the years that followed, Amy would learn a great deal about the power of taking even small concerns to God.
In Bangalore, India, Amy learned that many girls were sold or given up by their families to serve as forced prostitutes in the Hindu temples. She met a little girl named Preena (which means pearl-eyes), who had run away from the temple. The plight of young girls like Preena tore at Amy’s heart. She knew she had to do something about it.
In India it was hard for a white person like Amy to spend time among the poor without drawing attention to herself. So Amy came up with a disguise that helped her avoid being detected. She wore a sari, the traditional dress of women in India, and used tea bags to dye her skin dark brown. Amy realized then that God’s response to her prayer request years earlier—the “no” that came when she asked for blue eyes—was actually an answer that would enable her to help rescue girls.
Amy’s brown eyes made her disguise more convincing. If she’d had blue eyes, she’d have never been able to mix with the crowd in a land where everyone was brown-eyed. She began to understand that her brown eyes were a gift from God.
Amy rescued and cared for hundreds of girls—and later boys, too—over the course of her lifetime. The children called her Amma – mother — and she in turn, took care of them with a mother’s tender care. Amy once received a letter from a girl who was considering going into missionary work. The girl asked what missionary life was like, and Amy responded by saying this: “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”
It’s really interesting how some things we may not like about ourselves, or things we view as weaknesses, can actually be assets. Those characteristics that we may think are unattractive, or that make us different from others, might actually be part of God’s unique plan for us. Think about it: Amy’s brown eyes that made her feel different from her family were one reason she was able to be effective in rescuing little girls from slavery. I know alot of us think something about the way we look is unattractive or we see it as a weakness. In a world so focused on externals with artificial attractiveness set up as the ideal it can be hard to see the truth about ourselves – we were created uniquely we are not mistakes.
Know this, girls and women: God thinks you are absolutely beautiful he adores you. He doesn’t measure you according to the world’s standards or compare you with some airbrushed model on a magazine cover. You are undeniably beautiful.
Happy International Women’s Day. Use your power for good.
In celebration of women who give us roots and wings, a piece from one of my favorite spoken word artists, Amena Brown. Click to watch the video.