Some people are meant to stay behind the scenes in life

It should be obvious to anyone who meets me that I am a graduate of the Wendy Ward Charm School program.

Key word: should.

Reality: No one will ever mistake me for either Miss Manners or America’s Next Top Model. Wendy Ward fail.

Two things from my sojourn in the Wendy Ward program have stuck with me through lo, these many years. The first is the fact that I learned to do a runway-perfect 3/4 pivot turn. Not exactly a skill I rely on in daily life. Or like, ever. Something tells me if I attempted a couple of these catwalk moves back-to-back today, I’d probably end up in a hospital emergency room.

The second thing that I carried with me for many years was a single sentence the program director said to me. There was nothing I wanted more than to be poised and pretty, and I’d hoped that maybe Wendy Ward could transform me. The classes, taught by Mrs. B, a well-groomed woman who’d once been a model, coached insecure junior high girls like me in areas like how to walk and sit, apply make-up, make small talk at parties and more. I’d completed the program and asked Mrs. B if she thought I was ready for the Wendy Ward big leagues – the Pacesetters. The Pacesetters were the girls who modeled in the Randhurst mall fashion shows and did a variety of PR-type events in for the Montgomery Ward department store that sponsored the program.

“Oh no,” Mrs. B exclaimed, a well-trained smile not quite masking her look of horror at my request. “Some people are meant to stay behind the scenes in life.”

Throughout my life, my mom (and a few key others) made sure I knew that there was a quite a list of issues in regards to my looks – big nose, birthmark across the bridge of my nose, untameable hair. At first, Mrs. B’s words were just another voice in the chorus telling me that I wasn’t pretty or desirable. Only later did I realize how Mrs. B’s assessment silenced me.

Her assessment of me kept me off the runway, which, given my propensity for public displays of klutziness, was for the best. (Another Wendy Ward fail.) I did have a brief tenure as a behind-the-scenes Pacesetter, answering the loading dock phone and handing out cheese and sausage samples near the escalator to Montgomery Wards customers on Saturday afternoons until I took the hint and moved on.

Mrs. B’s words influenced the way I used my voice for years to come. I believed I had no choice but to live a behind-the-scenes life. I avoided public speaking. I wrote plays instead of acting in them. I served behind the scenes at church. (Of the latter, please note that I believe it is good for each one of us to serve far from the spotlight/microphone, no matter how public and visible our ministry is – but I can say that there was a part of me that stayed far from the stage because Mrs. B had sized me up and found me inadequate.)

It took a bulls’-eye accurate prophetic prayer by someone who didn’t about know this story to expose the effect Mrs. B’s careless words had on my soul. False humility isn’t humility at all – it’s a warped form of pride. As I wriggled free of those words, I cherished the fact that I was free to follow Jesus everywhere – both into the shadows and onto the stage to serve him. In both places, I have the exact same purpose. I am called to teach and encourage those around me, serving them with the gifts God gave me to give to them.

Now that’s beautiful.

Maybe you’ve had a Mrs. B experience, though probably without the posture tips. Perhaps you haven’t realized the effect of an authority figure’s wrong judgement of you. If my story resonates with you, please take a few minutes and ask the Lord to show you where you may be shackled to a lie.

You are never behind the scenes in his sight. 




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6 thoughts on “Some people are meant to stay behind the scenes in life”

  1. I loved this post, Michelle. What crazy messages we send our young women! I’m glad that you were able to shuck off Mrs. B’s marching orders.

  2. This post was timely encouragement for me, Michelle. And the Randhurst photo really brought back memories. Can we expect to see a runway 3/4 pivot next Sunday on your way back from communion?!

  3. For me it wasn’t so much what was said than what WASN’t said. It took me until last year to realize my mom NEVER encouraged me to reach for anything. I know college was beyond her imagining and being a good student was what I was good at. But the deafening silence when I try to recall an encouraging word…louder than I’d like.

  4. Marie, that silence can be deafening, can’t it? We all ache to hear words of blessing from our parents and the other authority figures in our lives. I’m so sorry you’ve experienced that terribly loud silence.

    You’ve pushed past that silent barrier in so many areas of your life, Marie, to your credit. You responded to the voice of God calling you forward – which took a great deal of courage.

  5. Thank you for sharing! Praise God for the prayer spoken that began it’s effect to free you from negative words spoken.
    There’s nothing more beautiful than serving God and others with the gifts He’s given us.

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