The most encouraging person on the planet stepped out into eternity last Thursday. That person was not Tony Robbins nor Joel Osteen but one Ingrid Oxley Brady, a.k.a. Ahmi, of Ames, Iowa.
Ahmi’s passing was of special interest to me for two reasons. First, of course, I knew her. Second, her passing creates a vacancy for the post of World’s Most Encouraging Person. As you can see from my Twitter bio, that’s a job I’m gunning for.
At Ahmi’s funeral, as at most funerals, declarations of the deceased’s virtues were plenty and generous. Unlike the scattershot praise offered at most funerals, though, a common thread wove its way through Ahmi’s tapestry of testimonials, and that thread was, “The Look.”
Every mother has a “look.” Within the borders of her own little Queendom, a mom’s special look is her greatest asset and her most powerful weapon. In a word, “the look” makes things happen.
Most of us have a holy fear of “the look.” We need it but seldom want it. We have great affection for it and we joke about it with our siblings. We may even joke about it with mom herself, but always after the fact; only a fool would mock “the look” when it’s fully armed.
Sadly, as real life unfolds in real time, too many moms yield to the temptation to abuse “the look.” Thus a marvelous gift from God, given with the intention that it be employed strictly to defend precious hearts, becomes instead an offensive weapon, a self-serving tool, a mere vehicle for the manipulation of those whom it was designed to protect. (Proverbs 4:23)
Not so with Ahmi. At that miraculous moment when her beautiful spirit abandoned her exhausted, 83 year-old body, a weapon of inexpressible power was retired after some 59 years of continuous and honorable service. Ahmi had managed the incredibly rare feat of finishing the race without ever having abused her role as steward of “the look.”
Ahmi was, by unanimous account, a dear woman. It’s interesting to note that Jesus, that famous coiner of affectionate nicknames, called his own mother, “Dear Woman.” (John 2:4)
My guess is that Jesus gave Mary that fond moniker because Mary used “the look” responsibly, and Jesus had been on the receiving end of that look all his life. On the only recorded occasion of the boy Jesus making trouble, the Bible reports that Mary “treasured these things in her heart.” Mary’s eyes delivered the message that, while she pooh-pooh’d the mischief, she adored the mischief-maker. (Luke 2:41-52, especially Luke 2:51)
Jesus learned “the look” from his mom and unleashed it on humanity. One time that’s recorded and thousands of times that aren’t, Jesus looked at a person with such unconditional love that the love was obvious even to onlookers.
In Mark 10:21, Jesus is speaking to a wealthy young man who has just committed the colossal blunder of boasting about his own goodness in God’s presence. Does Jesus argue with the guy? No. Does Jesus humiliate the guy in front of the crowd? Hardly. Instead, Mark 10:21 reports that, “Jesus looked at him and loved him!”
Think of it! A look of such love that there’s no guesswork involved. What must such a look, The Perfect Look, look like?
For starters, The Perfect Look must convey acceptance. It must say, “I’m not out to get you. I have nothing to gain by you failing. The only way I can win is for you to win. I love you just the way you are, not because it’s my “job” to love you but because it’s my privilege to love you. I’m your biggest fan!”
Then, The Perfect Look must convey that it’s a dialog, not a monolog. It must say that while you’re receiving acceptance from my eyes, I’m also receiving something from yours. I’m looking at your essence and I like what I see. I see what’s unique about you. I see what’s special about you. I see the greatness in you. I see you, and I thank you for sharing yourself with me!”
Ahmi had the look that Mary passed on to Jesus and Jesus passed on to the world, the look that certain sincere persons have nurtured and passed along for generation after generation. It’s a look that’s so rare, yet so alive, to this very day.
Think of it again! Like the Olympic torch that rides along in the grasp of joggers for mere weeks before the Olympic Games, The Perfect Look is the “lamp on a stand” which has glowed from the eyes of a precious few people ever since Jesus lit the candle. (Matthew 5:14-16)
And how is it that I can testify to the power of Ahmi’s “look?” Maybe you suspect that these words are merely the sentimental ramblings of a son wallowing in the bed of fresh grief. Not so! [click to continue…]