Loving the Unlovely

I’d pick her, too!

The little girl’s eyes searched the faces of the waiting adults. She made a move towards me and then saw my young, beautiful daughter standing behind me.  Her eyes lit up and she made a beeline for her.  I watched several girls come out and do the same thing–always moving towards the young, beautiful girls in our group and always passing me by.

We were in Guatemala and we were ministering to orphans. I didn’t think they would care how I looked.  But, of course, while they loved any attention they received from anyone, the young and pretty girls were a definite favorite among the little girls there.

I don’t blame them, quite honestly. I would rather hold the hand of one of them, too, if I was a child.  But I have to admit, I felt hurt and rejected. Oh, I know they didn’t mean it intentionally. Not even a bit. But it hurt, nevertheless.

Thankfully, my daughter had been looking most forward to spending time holding the babies and so I spent most of my time in the baby house cradling little ones and playing with 2 year olds, who really don’t care what you look like as long as you are fun!

But what had happened to me with the little girls got me to thinking about the people that it happens to all of the time. The disabled, the ones that make us feel uncomfortable, the unlovely ones. Do they grow used to being passed by? Does it still hurt after it happens so often?

In the baby house where we spent most of our time, they have a few special needs kids. For the first few days, I felt uncomfortable and avoided all of them. But as I watched a lady from our team love on one of these little guys, I grew braver. What could it hurt to talk to them? The turning point came when I watched one of the “special moms” (this is what the caregivers are called) play peek-a-boo with a severely disabled 15 year-old boy named Alex.  I watched his eyes light up as a big smile came over his face. And I realized that locked inside that boy was a real live person.  He would laugh and tease his “special mom” by moving his head so that she would have to lift it up again. All the while, I could see by his expression that he was having a ball.

I reflected back on what had happened to me earlier that week. How was I any different than those little girls? I would make a beeline for the beautiful babies and the cute toddlers, barely glancing towards the special needs kids.

But I was given a gift that day. An important reminder of something we should never forget: every person has value, no matter what they look like or how unlovely (inside or out) they are.  It is our job to love them, just like Jesus loves us.

After that day, I would always spend a little time with those three special needs boys. Oh, I was still a little uncomfortable– that did not just disappear–but I did it, anyway.  And, little by little, it grew more natural for me to give a big smile and say hello.

I guess it will always be our human nature to run towards the lovely. But, while we are running, may we not forget that there is a person with feelings who knows we didn’t choose them…who stands there forlorn and broken as they get passed by one more time.


John 13:34 A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are to love one another. 

John 13:35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. 

John 15:12 This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 

John 15:17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

8 thoughts on “Loving the Unlovely”

  1. I just love your insight and how you related these two situations, Leslie. Thanks for the great reminder that there’s beauty in everyone and everything. Also, your daughter is beautiful, and so is her Mom.

  2. Thanks for sharing this again Leslie; it is a wonderful reminder we all want to feel loved, included, wanted and accepted. As a mom of a son with lower functioning Autism, it is so hard to see him struggle with feeling “less than” and it breaks my heart to see people reject him because he is different. He already knows he is different; yet people remind him of that daily.It is totally understandable to navigate towards those that make us feel good; we don’t want to feel the uncomfortable feelings that the unlovely, the odd, the handicapp, the mentally challenged…bring out in us. It takes us to a place we don’t want to go. It requires more from us. But if we allow ourselves to embrace the “less than” in society, we can be a blessing in their lives and they in turn, will keep us humble, thankful and empathetic to those that need to feel loved and accepted.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family Leslie!! You are a blessing to me through your beautiful writings; filled with compassion and wisdom from God.

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