There are people who make a living shocking our sensibilities through thoughtless commentary. That is not my intention. I don’t want to upset anyone…I just want to tell you something that I have realized recently…but I have to go back to about 1975.
When I was a kid I watched FAR TOO MUCH television…especially considering that there was barely anything worth watching! But let’s just say that in the first ten years of my life I watched more TV than in the following – uhhum…19 …years combined.(or 33, but who is counting?)
… Love Boat, Dallas, Fantasy Island ( I wasn’t allowed to watch Three’s Company or Maude)… the Munsters ,the Adams Family, Gilligan’s Island, Green Acres, Petticoat Junction, Dick Van Dyke Show, Leave it to Beaver, the Little Rascals, the Three Stooges ( re-runs of course – I am not that old)…
MOST of my TV viewing memory had to do with sports though. I was a sports fiend. I LOVED competition. Every Saturday Jim McKay would say, “Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport… the thrill of victory… and the agony of defeat… the human drama of athletic competition… This is ABC’s Wide World of Sports!” My heart would race. And each time I would cringe as the skier took that terrifying crash. He just kept bumping and spinning and skidding down the mountain….it is amazing that he was not torn limb from limb. The”agony” of defeat indeed. I always wondered if that fall broke that guys neck or back or killed him! Each week I saw that same fall… for 20 years…and I wondered! Of course I did not have a smart phone or a tablet or a laptop to “Google” who that skier was who took the spill… or if he lived! But guess what? … I just found out! It took me about three seconds…after all these years I finally know!
“Vinko Bogataj was competing as a Yugoslavian entrant at the Ski-flying world Championship in Oberstdorf, West Germany on March 21, 1970. A light snow had begun falling at the start of the event, and by the time Bogataj was ready for his third jump, the snow had become quite heavy. Midway down the ramp for that jump, Bogataj realized that the conditions had made the ramp too fast. He attempted to lower his center of gravity and stop his jump, but instead lost his balance completely and rocketed out of control off the end of the ramp, tumbling and flipping wildly, and crashing through a light retaining fence near a crowd of stunned spectators before coming to a halt. Despite the ferocity of the crash, Bogataj suffered only a mild concussion.”
Thank you, Wikipedia.
And I am relieved for you, Vinko Bogataj. I am glad that we did not see you mortally wounded! And that you recovered fully.
I was negative one week old when that happened. How weird.
So, Saturday afternoons I spent watching sports. Sunday afternoons I spent napping on my stomach on the carpet directly in front of the TV…my dad behind me in the big ugly green itchy chair with the matching ugly ottoman. I could never keep my eyes open once the golf announcers started to whisper in their beyond boring golf announcer voice. Sunday afternoons were the only exception in my life when I EVER took naps…I NEVER laid down during the day or barely sat down until I collapsed in my bed at night! But put golf on the TV, and buddy I was a goner.
If you knew me as a little kid, our neighbor in Kingsport, Tennessee “Mr. Nagrada” spoketh the truth when he told my dad ( the father of myself and my older sister) that my parents did not need a son…because they had me.
Now some folks might take offense to that. Personally I do not view one sex as being superior or inferior…but for the things that I liked to do… as a kid… being a “boy” was just fine with me. Kids today don’t even know what Title IX was…but let me just tell you that if those politicians in 1972 had not begun to give girls equal opportunities to play sports …it would not have been pretty for them.
Now this is where I must “own” something… that I believe if others were honest would “own”too. Maybe not this exactly, but something like this. It has to do with the ability (or inability) to discern things. My first example goes back to the mid 1970’s. I was watching Chinese gymnastic performers do amazing contortions. Each tiny trickster had straight black hair pulled back into a tight bun; white face makeup; red lipstick; dark oriental eyes; and tiny ballerina bodies. I could not have been more unlike these amazing and exotic creatures. My hair was a mixture of brown and red and gold and usually unkept due to running wild all day like a wild banshee. My clothes were likely my older boy cousin Tim’s hand-me-downs…not because I did not have my own girl clothes but because I preferred his. I had brown skin, green eyes and a muscular body. Graceful, elegant, feminine were not the first words to describe me. Plus I had an underbite so I looked a little bit like a Scottish Highlander male child mixed with a bull-dog. And that is how I lived…All out…pedal to the metal…win or die.
But the point is, the part I am not proud to admit, is …those gymnasts all looked the same to me. And people from India…and Native Americans …and Japanese people…and African people…and any type of person that I did not have first hand experience with… other than to see them on TV in crowds or on teams or in large groups…Any “other” than white and East Tennessee was indistinguishable to me. I was not racist. I was a child and I did not see clearly.
And then I became a woman and in many ways I still did not see clearly. Sure I could differentiate features: large eyes, small eyes; full lips, thin lips; wide noses, narrow noses; I could see the nuances and the color variations of skin and hair and eyes. I could note the different shape of the body: wide shoulders, long legs, small feet. I could see that some people had crooked teeth; some had gaps between their front teeth, some had no teeth. Some people smiled with their lips closed. And although hair might seem a certain color it had various highlights and textures…some smooth; some frizzy; some people had a “widows peak.”
I got better at distinguishing the differences in a person’s exterior. Most people, I believe develop a certain mastery of the basic way to differentiate one another. And we do get better at noticing the subtle things about another…body language, tone of voice, word choice…clues to help us know more…if we care to know more.
But I believe that some people get “stuck” here in our discernment and relating to other people. We never get beyond appearances. We see others as distiguishable…people look different from each other and from anyone else. We acknowledge that people are indeed individuals…at least in a most basic physical and emotional sense.
We can say “I see you. I know you!” but do we?
I will “own” this too: until VERY recently I “judged” people as right or wrong and good or bad based on the same type of childish measure that I had viewed the appearance of others when I was a little child. “Are they like me?” “Do I understand them?” I would see the person simply…like a two-dimensional snapshot picture stuck in one scene…Once I had my “picture” I thought I knew them… I did not consider all of the nuances…all of the “other angles”. I would evaluate a person or situation based on a check list of three boxes: yes/ no/ I don’t know (because I don’t really care).
It has been painful but also freeing and comforting to discover that I have seen things as a child. I have been unfair.
I can not find where it is in the Education of Little Tree, but I KNOW that there is a scene where a man looks down on Little Tree and his Grandfather because they are simple, country people. The man in the fancy car speaks unkindly to them and tries to belittle them. Grandpa tells Little Tree that there are people in the world that are like that. When a person who does not know you, treats you unfairly, it has nothing to do with you. When people are unkind or rude or try to make you feel bad, it is not a reflection on you. It is a problem with them.
I know that. And I try not to let people who do not know me hurt me.
But I have been guilty of making judgement calls on people who I do not know too. I have seen them dimly…in one light…as a child. Now I know that is unfair. I must pause and try to determine who they are when viewed in the true Light…as seen from every angle including inside. The truth is, that some people may be covered in shadows…they may not have a light ON inside that is visible to us or to even to themselves. There may be nothing that we can see that helps reveal who they are. But not having a light ON or one that is visible IS NOT the same as not having a light AT ALL.
If a person is in the dark…their life seems a drugery…a burden…full of anger or bitterness or sadness. Those people are close to the walking dead! But these unapproachable souls ironically are the ones that are in the most need of the presence of another. Is a disagreeable or alone person to be shunned or remain alone? It is true, we do not love to be with people who are unhappy. We do not want to be brought down. We have our own problems. But those people are not well. There might not be anything physically or clinically wrong…but spiritually they are ill and they need someone to see them – not their shadowed and dark and dreary self…but the clear and bright image of what they are made to be when in the Light. What might happen if we were not afraid to draw near to them? If we went to them with God’s Light surrounding us, I believe that not only would we see them through different eyes, but they would see themselves more clearly as well. If they could see a glimmer of what they were made to be, it could lead to the discovery that Life is full of meaning and purpose. There is a lot of living to be done between physical birth and physical death. We are made to grow.
“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13: 11-12
Thank God, I am growing up. I am noticing more than eye color and skin color and physical features. People are beautiful. And they do not have to be like me or think like me or act like me. Thank God that there are people who are gifted in areas where I do not thrive …and thank God that there are people who present me with challenges that make me ask tough questions like, “does having things my way really matter? What are we trying to accomplish here, anyway? Is it about how I want to do it or about how you want to do it…or about how God wants it done for the greatest good of the most concerned?”
Ask yourself this tough question: What do you see when you look at another? What they lack? How they fall short? How they annoy or boss or nag… how they are difficult? Do you see their weak spots and their warts and scars? Do you wish that they would be quiet or stay far from you?
Or when you see them does a voice urge you to draw near to them and speak kindly. Do you heed that voice even as another voice whispers to you all of the reasons not to go?
What if you answer the call to shine God’s love on those that others deem as unlovable, and the light within you shines so brilliantly that all that you can see is that they are made in the image of God?
A person is not Chinese, or Indian, or African, or young or old or rich or poor or Jewish or Christian or Muslim…Whether or not we acknowledge it, we are all made to shine God’s Love. We are made to be a light; a guide in the darkness. We are to be a beacon that guards people from harm and directs people to the Way. If we see a person who has forgotten why they are made…do not judge them for who they appear to be.
If you are a person who has forgotten why you are made… I want for you to know!
Do not judge others or yourself. If we see ourself as anything less than God’s child, then we are not seeing.
We are not discouraged by a rainy day! We live with Hope and faith…we know that the sun continues to shine whether we see it or not…and that even though we may prefer a sunny day, that the earth needs the rain…to wash things clean and to make things grow! “Gray cloud” people are not without light…even if we do not see it. Shine a ray of the sunshine that God has given to you into the life of the very person that you see through judgmental eyes. Ask God to show you people in your life that you need to see in a “different Light”…even yourself! Do not be discouraged…and do not expect a radical change. You are not the Light…your are the bearer of God’s Light. You are an instument…a tool…allow yourself to be used without expectation of seeing the result. As Keith Green sang:
You know it ain’t no use, banging your head, up against that cold stone wall,Cause nobody’s perfect, except for the Lord, and even the best bound to fall,Remember He is divine, and you are de branch,He’d love to get you through it if you’d give Him a chance,Just keep doing your best,And pray that it’s blessed,And Jesus takes care of the rest.Yes the Lord said that He’d take care of the rest, He’s gonna do it,He’ll take care of the rest, He’ll see you through it…”
If this is your problem too it may be a painful thing to admit. But once you know this about yourself you will be free to love not because people are easy to love but because we are all made to love…and to be loved.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13
Love is seeing our fellow human and ourselves as God made us. And it is good. Not because of who we are but because of Whose.
I cannot make you see my new perspective…but I pray for you that you choose love. And Light. Peace.