One person specifically sticks out to me when I think about who has changed me. This person changed me in many small ways over the summer while we worked together, and during the times when we went to college together. However, there was one night in particular where she impacted me in a huge way. She changed me, whether or not I realized it then, but in a large, impacting way, it changed my life. It changed how I walked, how I talked, and how I saw myself. It changed how I let people treat me, how I stood up for myself, and how much value I put on my emotions. This transformation was definitely for the better, and it’s all because of what she taught me especially on particular night. Serah Wright taught me that I was beautiful and deserving of love.
Three summer I worked at a summer camp, Penn-York Camp, which I had been a camper at for eleven years. Three summers ago however, I decided to become staff. I did this because I wanted to grow in my faith and learn more from the people I worked with. I’m glad I did, because the past few years before working there had been disheartening. Between ex-boyfriends who had me believing I’d never be loved again and just general teenage insecurities, my self-esteem was practically nonexistent. It held me back from being the person I wanted to be. I looked at people and thought I wasn’t good enough. These insecurities grew and grew. Once I had one, I attracted multiple. I became shy, quiet, and withdrawn. I began to have anxiety attacks and was worried about everything. I was terrified that I was alone and that no one would love me. Camp helped with some of the anxiety. Camp let me just forget about myself and instead be there for my campers and the rest of the staff members. This was great most of the time, it taught me to be a little less selfish, however, it wasn’t until one night during the last week of camp that I realized something. I couldn’t just put my low self-esteem behind me anymore. I couldn’t just forget about it, because it was still there in the back of my head. Even if it wasn’t apparent, it was still damaging to me. It was damaging and it needed to be fixed.
It was the last of the six weeks of camp, everyone’s favorite. The last week every year is teen week, and it’s everyone’s favorite for many reasons. For one, we didn’t have to carefully watch over each camper to make sure they won’t eat the glue or manage to stab themselves with kid-safe scissors. We didn’t have to walk them to the bathroom either, or make sure they wipe like they’re supposed to. Another reason was that we could connect to them because they were closer in age to us. The main reason everyone loves teen week though? Every year the camp brings in an amazing Christian speaker, as Penn-York Camp is a Christian camp. This was great because we don’t have to stress over writing sermons like we usually did, and we get to listen to someone who knew what they were doing. That year it Karl Hoyer. Karl was a friendly guy, which made it seem like he was talking directly to you in his sermons. His sermons were heart wrenching, and he had an alter call every night, which is where people go up to the alter to be saved, prayed over, or just to have alone time with God – usually they’re pretty emotional. Because his sermons were so thought provoking, and Karl was so easy to relate to, the sermons really struck a chord in many of the listeners. He talked about following God, but not just saying that we should, but that it wasn’t easy. He talked about the hard stuff, and how it’s really not physical, it’s mental, and there is always a mental war going on.
Everyone else other than me really related to the sermons about it being a mental war. This meant that every night my friends and my campers were overwhelmed with the Holy Spirit. They’d be up front at the end of chapel, standing or on their knees, but always always sobbing. I’d be right there with them. I held them and prayed for them because I didn’t know what else to do. The thing was, I could help them to the best of my ability. I would wipe their tears, hold them, or pray for them. Whatever I could try to do for them, but that didn’t mean I could help myself. I had no idea what God wanted to tell me, because I felt like He was trying to tell me something. I didn’t know what my mental war was. I knew something was wrong in my life, but I didn’t know what. I prayed, and I didn’t really get any clue. Not until Serah anyways.
Thursday night was the last full day with our campers and I was doing the same thing, going from person to person, holding them. That night was even more emotional than all the other nights. Not only was it the last night, but it was one of the best sermons. This meant almost everyone was crying. My friend Serah was on her knees being held and prayed over, and I knew this was because she was going through a really rough time as she just gotten kicked out of her house. I was able to be with her for some of it, but I was with my campers most of the night. Then I stood up to take a quick moment to myself. I was praying to myself, wondering what God wanted to tell me, or if there really was anything. Wondering why I wasn’t filled like everyone else, or having great revelations. As I walked to grab some more tissues for my campers, I was stopped by Serah. She stood before me with a slightly embarrassed and maybe a little confused look on her face. She took me by the shoulders and said “Bethany, I don’t know why, but I’ve had this feeling that God wants me to tell you that you are beautiful.”
I think I must have tensed up and avoided eye contact when she said that, because she made me look her in the eyes. I didn’t want look into her blue eyes, but she made me, and when I did, all I saw in them was earnest determination. Then she repeated herself, “Bethany, you are beautiful.” That time, it broke me. Tears started welling up in my eyes, they stung, but she just kept going. Over and over she repeated that I was beautiful. I hugged her, crying, but still she didn’t stop. Serah was so determined to get it into my brain. She kept saying it until I was sobbing, tears streaming down my face and into my mouth, keeping a salty taste on my tongue. Soon, my knees gave out, and I held onto Serah to stay up. Somehow though, we still ended up on the floor with me in her lap.
Even then Serah didn’t stop telling me exactly what I needed to hear, even if I didn’t know I needed it. She held me in her lap and hugged me to her chest. I was in hysterics by that point, and I knew that people were staring. I couldn’t see them through my swollen eyes, still I knew people were watching, but I couldn’t stop crying. Usually my fear of being watched and judged would have sobered me up, but this time it didn’t. Back and forth she rocked me, still talking to me. “You are beautiful and deserve to be loved.” She kept telling me this. She called me baby, darling, and sweetie, as she just held me. I clung to her like I was a child.
I felt disgusting. Snot was running out of my nose, and getting everywhere. I felt disgusting and beautiful at the same time. Serah let my wipe my nose with her rough sweater. Even that was significant to me. I was messed up, I was disgusting, but still, she loved me and held me. When I wailed and was so sure I must be annoying, she called me beautiful. She sat there with me until I was calm again, still whispering to me how beautiful I was.
Before that I was worried that I couldn’t hear God’s voice. That fear changed that night though. I heard God, even though it came through the mouth of a short-haired twenty-one year old girl. I heard it when she came over to me to say something she wasn’t even sure I needed to hear, and honestly it wasn’t something I wasn’t sure I believed. Everything about that moment was amazing to me. Serah was going through a rough time on her own. She was going through a much worse time even. She should have taken care of herself, she should have let someone hold her. Instead, to her, I was important. I was important enough that even though she wasn’t sure if I needed to hear it, that she took the chance. I figured out what my mental war was, and I wasn’t going to let it destroy me anymore. I was important. I was beautiful. I was loved.
Even after that night Serah wouldn’t let me forget it. She started a thing where she would look me in the eye and tell me that I was beautiful, until I could hold her gaze and believe it. Serah taught me so many things, like how to stand up for myself. She taught me to be open-minded, caring, but most of all, she taught me that I was beautiful. It wasn’t even just her words, it was the way that she cherished me.
Being beautiful was a big deal for me. Being told that I deserved to be loved was huge. It altered how I saw myself. Before that night, I was scared, even if I didn’t show it, I was timid. I was afraid of how people looked at me. I was afraid of being alone. I was afraid that I would never be enough. I was afraid to fight for myself because I didn’t think I was worth it. Serah showed me otherwise. It was amazing, this girl who I didn’t get along with before that ummer, became the reason I am now more confident. Serah is the reason I don’t let people walk over me anymore, because I believe I am more than that. She is the reason I had the courage to stand up for myself after being sexually assaulted. I will always keep this instance in mind because life is hard. People may say I’m ugly or that I’m not worth it, but Serah taught me otherwise. I’ll never forget that.
Even though we don’t always see it, someone else does. We are beautiful creations that deserve to be loved. We are beautiful and as I Christian, I need to believe God doesn’t create mistakes, including myself. We should walk with confidence, because whether we know it or not, we are something special. Sometimes we believe that we are a mistake. But that’s not true – we are beautiful works of art. Sometimes we just need to hear it, and that’s what friends are for. Everyone could do with having a person like Serah Wright in their life, because everyone deserves to feel beautiful.