New year. New me! I think, striding up to the mirror, hopefully and perhaps a bit forgetfully. What looks back at me is as yesterday: puckered, lined, wrinkled and folded. Never mind the dark spots and crusty places, nor the gray, the soft, or the sagging. Ugh…. Ugly! I can’t help but think.
And yet, what I see is, as Father Boyle has so beautifully written, “exactly what God had in mind when God made me.”*
Do I believe this? can I believe this? That the Creator’s unique word spoken into me when I was laid so gently into the world years ago has aged according to plan, grown according to design, responded exactly on cue. Can I believe I have become just what God hoped?
Because, if I do, then I am not disgusted, not even disappointed in the me I see. I don’t cringe or turn away from what seems so unsightly. It’s not unsightly to God. God has seen it all along. In fact, God saw it coming. My imperfections are part and parcel of me: the me God is glad to see.
Do I believe this? can I believe this? That this broken down me, God is glad to see?
I take this with me to communion Sunday where the New Year’s Day pastor has particular difficulty breaking the loaf of Communion bread. I know they pre-pare it. There’s a finger-hold and the start of a separation to make it easier for the pastor to pull apart. Still, she tugs and pulls and works at it until the two portions are fully separated. Finally, she holds them up and announces, “His Body, broken for you.”
Broken, I think, not sliced.
Sliced bread is clean cut. A carving performed swiftly, sharply, evenly. No, this bread, this broken bread has seen warfare. It has battled and been torn in two and it shows. The two halves, their exposed surfaces mounded and shredded. The edges ragged, uneven, hanging; the terrain an unwelcome landscape navigable only by all-terrain vehicle. But I’m not navigating, I’m looking. Looking at the lusciousness that invites me to partake of mouth watering goodness.
So different from the polite bite I would have taken from the perfectly even slice neatly delivered to the toaster to be browned on both sides.
No, bread that’s broken is way more enticing. It says come, take, eat, by the handful, pinch-full or mouthful. To each according to their hunger. Beautiful. Not the least bit ugly. Exactly what God had in mind.
Can I believe this?
- ~ Gregory Boyle, Founder of Homeboy Industries, The Whole Language, the Power of Extravagant Tenderness, Avid Reader Press, NY, NY, 2021, pp. 6.
What if the child announced by the angel, promised to a virgin mother, to be named by a dutiful father, surprised everyone on her birthday? Would Joseph still have named her Jesus? or some other name more befitting a girl-child. What is "God-with-us," in the feminine? Surely she would have nursed and cried and toddled, just as a boy-child would. walked, fallen and walked again, just as a boy-child would. run and played, though maybe not so loudly, as a boy-child would. grown in stature and in strength, perhaps even more quickly than a boy-child would. Would she have gained entrance to the Synagogue for teaching and for learning? Would she have been mentored and apprenticed in a trade? Would she have been allowed to forgo marriage to follow her true love calling? If so, then... Would she have been baptized by John at the Jordan? And when she rose out of the water, would the dove descend on her and the voice of heaven say, "This is my daughter, whom I love; with her I am well pleased." Would she then travel the countryside teaching and preaching? Would those who heard then listen to her, accept her, learn from her? -- not such a threat to authorities, this young woman, perhaps they consider her words carefully, acknowledge her wisdom and take up her cause. Following after her, they-- observing how she treated others, seeing the love in her eyes and the smile she gave to each one the hope each one departed, carrying. They might follow her in the way true followers do. Unafraid and unyielding, listening for the voice she listened to honoring the God she gave honor to growing the courage to speak to the Father she spoke to, As she did, they came to do. Would they scorn her, dismiss her, or run her out of town? Certainly not. Daughter of God, we welcome such as these, wish we all could be such as she. Would they would imprison her, stone her, or crucify her? Not a chance. Who would suspect that God would arrive in such a meek, lowly female form? Who indeed? What if Jesus had been born a girl-child? Anything is possible with God.
I awaken into the new day. Already my mind is considering all that has been. Is contending with all I might do or be needed to do. Do I pause ... to ponder The ordered way land, sea and sky meet, as the the sun peers through the trees the clouds form and fold the light sparkles on the lake soft ripples hint of a soft breeze. That my lungs fill with fresh air perfectly composed to supply blood, uniquely equipped to carry cells, satisfied and content. That my legs lift and support me, step one foot to the other with balance on sturdy ground that promises to carry me into the day. Do I consider this ... the ordinary? that the day will take shape as it does and always has. that intake of air will refresh again and again. that gravity will have its way as it has this day and every day. This ordinary. This gift. This miracle. Not guaranteed Not promised Not deserved And yet, why? why do I overlook it? why do I suppose it? why do I rush past it? Why do I forget to give thanks? In the anxious of always, we've been given the ordinary to make life out of.