Jennifer asks the question on her blog.
This is a story.
She was thirteen years old, struggling as all girls do to make sense of her life and her own self. Her world was crumbling. Her grandfather–the only father figure she had ever known–had died; her siblings were growing up and moving out; her mother had moved them to a new city; her new school was as warm and welcoming as communism; and her new church was hokey. H-O-K-E-Y. Depression settled first upon her with the silence and wonder of October’s first snow, then buried her with the fury and drift of February.
She felt utterly alone, utterly isolated, utterly forgotten.
Her journal was her only solace. Day after day, she inked her frozen prayers on the pages, determined to cling to her faith rather than abandon it. She asked God to show her why He had brought her to this place. She asked Him why she existed at all. She asked Him where her father was and why he didn’t love her. She asked Him if there was anything beautiful or worthy of love in this life He had given her.
One Saturday evening, the girl sat in her bathroom shaving her legs–more for the privacy than for the need to shave. She wasn’t paying attention, really. Her thoughts were on Michelle, a girl at school who seemed to loathe her with incredible determination. The girl didn’t blame her. She pretty much loathed herself the same.
The girl hardly felt the razor slice through her skin, leaving a small pool of blood on her leg. She reached for the toilet paper, pulling several sheets from the roll and pressing it to her leg. As the crimson soaked through the toilet paper, the girl saw the design for the first time. How bizarre, she thought, to create toilet paper with such a design that nobody would ever take notice of or appreciate. And why would they? It was toilet paper, after all. The most common, crass invention, purposed only for disgusting things.
The girl was perplexed by it. She stole a spare roll of the Quilted Northern from below the sink and returned to her bedroom. Pulling out her secret stash of colored pens, she began to color in the design. Little circle by little circle, flower by flower, the toilet paper flourished out of its roll and into hands that would cherish it and ink its beauty.
As she did, she spoke to the toilet paper. “Even you are beautiful to one who will love you and give color to your design.” It was in her own voice that she heard God’s answer to her own feelings of commonness and unusefulness. Perhaps all she had ever needed was to know that there was a plan–that she, being who and where and what she was, was exactly as God desired her to be. Perhaps all she needed now was to allow Him to bring the color back into her life.
And He did.
The toilet paper has stayed with me for these many years. It will follow me to my grave, I’m sure. What began with colored pens and a search for purpose, grew into letters, poetry, songs, essays, bookmarks. It takes time and care. Have you ever tried writing on or coloring toilet paper? I dare you not to rip it. I dare you not to let your ink bleed through it.
Take your time. Do and say the things that need doing and saying. Be careful, be intentional, and love your toilet paper.