I was four or five, and tickled pink to be going to the birthday party of a friend—the most grandiose occasion of the month. Strangely, I don’t remember any of the highlights—the cake, the games, or the party favors. What I do remember with vivid sweetness is observing my friend’s mother. I was crinkling my forehead as I tried to put my finger on just what it was that made her seem so…stupendous…and…radiant as I observed her navigating the mass of knee-high children. The epiphany suddenly came to me while I watched her: her smile never left her face, and it wasn’t just any smile—it was a genuine, eye-sparkling smile.
Several years later, I was engrossed in watching another person, this time a father at my church. Naïvely, I asked my mother, “Why does he have all those lines around his eyes? Is it because he is always smiling?”
I was perplexed when Mama laughed in return. I was even more befuddled when she turned to the man’s wife and said, “Lauren wants to know if your husband has those lines around his eyes because he is always smiling!”
The woman also laughed at this, firmly cementing my confusion concerning grown-ups’ unpredictable responses.
“I think you are right,” was all she said.
Despite the laughs, I decided that when I was his age, I wanted those lines that showed to all the world that you were the kind of person who always smiled.
Those laugh-lines of honor are not gained through just any smile, though. They are certainly not achieved by those smiles wherein your facial muscles twitch the edges of your lips up into a curve that just shows the whites of your teeth, then immediately slackens into a straight-lipped expression. They are not gained through essential expressions, sassy smirks, or brief beams.
Laugh lines come from hard core smiles—eye-lighting expressions, giddy grins, and boundless beams which meld lips, eyes, and heart into one. Smiles that appear for no reason other than a bubbling over of a joyful heart. Smiles that appear—not for the show of it and for others to see, as our smiles so often tend to do—but simply because you cannot help it and must express your jubilation somehow.
When I was five, I somehow knew that I wanted to be like that ever-smiling woman, and when I was nine, I realized that I wanted people to be able to say of me, “She is always smiling!” You know these sort of people as well, I am sure—the people who just seem to radiate ecstasy, whose countenance is always beaming, and whose words are always an encouraging balm to match the smile. Wouldn’t this be a wonderful legacy on a tombstone? “Here lies so-and-so, beloved mother, daughter, friend. She always smiled.”
I don’t discount tears, for their salty sorrow only makes the joy that comes in the morning all the more sweet. But Psalm 32:11 commands,
“Be glad in the LORD, and rejoice, ye righteous: and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.”
I love the imagery of Isaiah 12:3, which says,
“Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.”
Our sustenance for our spiritual life is to be accessed in no other way than with joy. A smile is the obvious expression of that joy.
I have resolutely set my mind to the fact that I am not going to be a seventy-year old patron of Botox, erasing with a prick those hard-earned laugh lines that tell everyone just what kind of person I am, just what kind of life I’ve lived. Those blank, wrinkle-free faces project a stoic person who lived their lives without laughing giddily or smiling unconsciously when the sun rose in the morning.
Count me out. I’m smiling today!
Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.