Shine On

“You are one of the shiny-faced people.”

We had been sharing the day together, along with 35 or so other folks, attending a seminar on Bible interpretation. She beamed at me as our mutual friend introduced us.
“When my kids were small, they had a name for certain people at church. They called them the shiny-faced people. You are one of them.”
I smiled my appreciation then watched as this elderly lady made her way across the room, pausing to chat with others as she went. If I was shiny-faced, then she was glow-in-the-dark. This lady was larger than life. And now we are friends. All because I smiled at her.
I think about this dear woman as I watch my son squirm. He grins and ducks his head, casts me a secret glance. I give the signal and, on cue, I see his eyes slowly move…up…up…until they find those of his conversant. Only briefly do they land, quickly dart away and stare off above the person’s shoulder. Then, in a moment of sheer genius, he glances her way again and…the corners of his mouth lift.
We practice smiling.
Some people just naturally know how to relax in a crowd. Not so this boy of mine. Ask him a question and he’ll look away, ignore, try to escape.
He doesn’t understand that this is rude. He only knows he wants to run away–avoid eyes that see him, ears that hear him. It doesn’t feel…safe.
I watched him once, when he was in second or third grade. In the front of the sanctuary with the other children, singing. In the middle of a song, he stops. Looks around. And crumbles. He finds my mother eyes and his are pleading. I gesture for him to come and he does. Falls into my arms and never goes back up there again.
I know panic when I see it.
That was the first realization. Okay. This isn’t going to be easy for him.
Don’t I remember that feeling? Tangible embarrassment, red face, paralyzed thoughts, ache inside…I remember how it feels to be shy.
It hurts. These hands want to fix. And I try. As if clothes or hair or things can give confidence.
I know better. I know where confidence comes from–and you can’t buy it.
So I trust. And I love.
And I help him practice smiling.
It’s a good place to start. I smile a lot myself.
To some people this constitutes a shiny face. Others just find it annoying.
I remember a friend asking long ago, “Why are you always smiling?”
It wasn’t a compliment.
How to tell her because? Because I remember those who smiled at me? Because, for a girl who was always invisible those smiles meant I was seen? How do I explain the way those smiles bolstered me, embraced me, opened my eyes to beauty?
I tell Teddy that a smile is the gift that we can always, always give.
So we practice.
Shine on, friends. Smile at someone today.


  1. says

    Have you been watching my son or yours? Your description of it all suits my little “hider” too, even the escape from the church children singing sanctuary.

    You, indeed are one of the shiny-faced and shiny-hearted people, Laura. Shine on, girl!


  2. says

    Oh Laura, how sweet. I love how you’ve been practicing smiling. That is awesome.
    His future bride will probably list his “smile” as one of the things that captured her heart…

  3. says

    RYC: the word I copied from Matthew Henry’s commentary was “ever” not never as you typed….I am still pondering that one….I’m not sure which way I think about it. Self-loathing seems so unproductive yet I know I am broken when true repentance comes…not sure what Henry meant. There is a lot of meat in Henry’s statements…they always make me sit at His feet for a while and ponder.

  4. says

    Your boy and I have a lot in common! I’ve spent most of my life coming to terms with my social anxiety, and for me, the most important realization has been: I can be the shiny-faced person AND that shy girl standing alone in the corner, tears welling up and through me all at the same time! It’s been an amazing process, realizing that I don’t have to “conquer my fears,” but welcome them instead- reclaiming neurosis I like to call it.
    It’s hard to honor the difference, the discomfort, and to stand before the world, vulnerability painting our cheek bones (glistening with sweat) red, our heart thumping, filling us with thirst. But there’s strength in that vulnerability rising through us, as we stand alert and on fire, our hearts learning what it means to burst open, over and over and over again, each time remembering You.

  5. says

    As always, I am in awe. And surprised. You don’t seem to have ever suffered from shyness. When I look at your photo I see beauty on the outside, when I read your words, I see beauty on the inside. You are truly a beautiful joy! So shine on!

  6. says

    I am always smiling as well. For all the same reasons you give…out in public. I was a shy person for many, many years, and it is my way of showing love to others.

    My problem is that when I’m knee deep in diapers and spills and homeschooling, I don’t smile nearly enough. And the ironic thing is, I couldn’t be happier being a busy mom. I truly love it. I hate that inconsistency in myself. Why don’t I smile more, if I’m so in love with mothering?

    Great post!

  7. says

    Shiny face = Yes face. You don’t know how much those few shiny faces have been yes faces to me, as a painfully shy introvert. Keep it up. You’ll probably never know how many people you give courage to.

  8. says

    Thanks for sharing this encouraging post, using human warmth through smiling to encourage confidence.
    Sad how some people can’t stomach such displays of emotion.

  9. says

    I love to smile! I do it to everyone that I meet! I know it helps to make people feel accepted and more comfortable. At least it is a start. I am going to shine on! 🙂

  10. says

    I have to tell you that your practicing smiling keeps running through my head. I’ve always been one to notice the faces of people who drive by…SO MANY GRIM FACES….I’m usually singing and bopping…but thinking about you practicing smiles gives me a bigger smile…

  11. says

    Some time ago the Lord impress on my heart that smiling was a ministry I could easily do. So I began to smile – and it wasn’t easy for this shy one either. It is amazing what happens when you make eye contact and smile.
    You have given your son something special. I remember. I was the little girl so shy I dreaded birthday parties, cried until my Mom let me leave those ballet lessons I desperately wanted to be able to muster the courage to take.
    Knowing I was understood made all the difference.

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