Somebody’s Baby

Hello again. Last time I wrote, I talked just a little about how having a son has been changing my life. Today I want to share a profound way that my son has changed my perspective.

 

To start, I have a confession to make, and this is something I’m really not proud of. So here goes. Sometimes when I’m out and about and I encounter a person who is somehow ‘odd’, I get a little uncomfortable. I know intellectually that there is no reason to be, but it’s an occasional gut reaction. And, sadly, I imagine that I’m not the only one who reacts this way.

 

There’s something about our human nature that reacts poorly to those we perceive as different. It’s the basis for all prejudice, be it racism, sexism, ageism, or any other form of discrimination. To an extent, our snap judgments help us quickly process the myriad of inputs we experience as we go about our lives, so they are useful. But when it comes to people, we need to use our metacognition – our ability to think about our thinking – to reach the truth, not just first impressions.

 

As I said, I have often found myself confronting these first impressions, and my usual rebuttal to myself is to go through the litany of “You don’t know them or what their condition really is; they’re just as important and valuable as everyone else.” Which is completely true. The problem was, I was addressing a gut reaction with a mental process. Sometimes that works, but often we need an emotional response to an emotional problem. We need something to strongly affect our core in such a way that it changes not only the way we think about things, but also the way we feel about them.

 

That is exactly what happened to me when my son was born. I remember one of my first forays into the outside world after he was born, I encountered one of the regulars at the store I was visiting, a person who, on first impressions, can make me feel a little uncomfortable, even though I know that I have no reason to be. This time, though, a new thought went through my mind: “He is somebody’s baby.” Just that. Just imagining, for a second, that at one time, he was a tiny, precious newborn, no different from his peers; someone small and helpless and sweet, and just as perfect as every other baby. Someone who was the absolute center of his or her parents’ heart. The moment I realized that, it completely changed the way I look at people. It spread not just to those who make me uncomfortable on first glance, but also to the people who irritate me, the people I am quick to judge.

 

And then something truly miraculous happened in my heart. I began thinking more and more about this idea of a parent’s love for a baby. I thought about how much I love my son, a love that I couldn’t even begin to imagine before he was born. As I was thinking about it, I realized that God loves my son far more than I love him. That realization has helped me so much in trusting God to care for my son. And then I realized that God loved all those people, the ones I struggle with judging and loving, as much as He loves my son. That was an amazing realization, because it dawned on me that God’s love for humanity is so much more than a kind, general benevolence. I love my son with an indescribably fierce and all-consuming love, and yet God loves him, and by extension everyone, infinitely more than that, because He is infinitely more capable of loving than I am. Wow – that changes the way I look at people when I begin to understand the way God sees them. Mind officially blown.

 

But then God decided to take the smoldering shreds of my mind and completely destroy my old ways of thinking about one person in particular. The one person I had the most difficulty forgiving, the one I was the quickest and harshest to judge. Myself. It was like God spoke clearly to me and said, “You know how much you love that little baby you’re holding right now? You know how deep, and fierce, and strong that love is, how you are constantly telling him that there is nothing that can change your love for him, that you love him no matter who or what he decides to be? Now, do you remember how you just figured out that my love for everyone is infinitely greater than that? Do you realize that you are one of those people? I love YOU infinitely more than you love your son. You, One-Who-Fails-Daily. And I sent my Son, whom I love even more than you love your son, to die for you. Even though you can’t begin to deserve it, even on your best days.

 

Very rarely do you get such clear spiritual breakthroughs, and to have three of them cascading all at once left me speechless. To change how I see my community, my child, and then myself, to begin to really appreciate the value God has placed on each of us, to have even a fractional understanding of how great a price He paid to redeem us – this changes everything.

 

My hope and prayer for you is that you begin to see how treasured you are, and that you look at those around you with a new appreciation of their worth. May God blow your mind too!

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Tuesday’s Truth – Mirror, Mirror

Welcome back   🙂 I’m glad we’re both sticking with this! I hope you’re finding something to energize your spirit here.

This week I want to dig into some truth about our image. Image is a very important thing to us humans. God created us with eyes that we use to gather mountains of data about the world around us. The way we see things with our eyes has a big impact on how we perceive them with our minds. But it’s not a one-way street. Our mind can cause our eyes to see the wrong thing. Think of all those optical illusions and “magic eye” pictures that so fascinated you as a child (or even, like me, as an adult). You may know that the circles are not spinning, but something between your eyes and your brain says it most certainly is. Or there are those with eye diseases that either have blank spots in their vision, or see extra things (lines, starbursts, etc.) added to the image before them. We even have sayings based on image: “Seeing is Believing” or “Image is Everything”. We have image consultants, we have whole industries based on making things and people look their best. Or, in some cases, better than their best.

Floating around the internet currently is a video series put out by health and beauty product manufacturer Dove. It features an interesting experiment in which a forensic sketch artists draws two portraits of several women. One he draws based solely on the woman’s description of herself, and the other he bases on a description given by an acquaintance. He never sees the woman until all the sketches are finished. In every case, the picture based on the woman’s own description is much harsher and less attractive (and also less accurate). The point Dove is trying to make is that we all are more beautiful than we think, and that people we meet judge us (at least physically) less harshly than we judge ourselves. I think they’re right, and I think that it is an important fact to remember, especially in such a beauty-crazed society as ours.

But our problem with image goes far beyond age spots, crows’ feet, or dark circles under our eyes. And it’s not just limited to women. Yes, we ladies often worry about our physical image before we even think about the other aspects. But men are not immune to creating false images of themselves as well, although their images are more often based on quantitative factors such as social acceptance, career success, wealth accumulation, and perceived respect. Now, to be sure, some people go off the other end of the continuum and create a false self-image that paints them as much more beautiful, successful, and popular than they are. But by far, the majority of us struggle with seeing ourselves as less thans. I’m less beautiful than _________ because _______. I’m not as successful as ____________ because I don’t _____________. I’m less popular than ___________ because ____________. I get less respect in the office than _________ because __________. The comparisons go on and on until we see ourselves as something small and miserable. The first image that pops into my mind is from the Disney classic Little Mermaid. Being a child of the 80’s, I probably watched this movie 100 times. The wicked sea-witch sings a song about “Poor Unfortunate Souls”, those who had asked for her help, and were unable to repay. They looked like this:  instead of the beautiful, graceful, majestic mer-people that they had been. Sad as it is, we often turn ourselves into “Poor Unfortunate Souls” by lying over and over to ourselves and to others about who we really are.

So what about the truth? Who are we? We are God’s masterpieces (Ephesians 2:10). We are created in His image (Genesis 1:27). We are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We are God’s special possession (1 Peter 2:9). Any one of those alone ought to revolutionize the way we see ourselves. You are not from God’s pile of “seconds”. He didn’t pick you up in the yardsale of life (and He won’t sell you off at one, either). The Father and Creator takes great joy in you, whether you are physically beautiful in your own eyes, or the eyes of others. He rejoices over you whether you have reached the highest levels of human success, or are still struggling to get on the bottom rung of the proverbial ladder. Let me leave you with the simple, but eternally profound, truth that God gave to the prophet Samuel as he searched for the next King of Israel: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) What is inside you – your character, your integrity, your relationship with God – those are the things that really count, because they can get better with age. No one gets more beautiful as they get old. But the lasting and eternal continually improves, if it is what we are focused on.

This week, when you look in the mirror, make sure you’re presentable, but then look deeper, and ask God to show you what’s on the inside (Psalm 139:23-24), then take care of that. And when you look at others, discipline yourself to look past their outward appearance, whether stunningly beautiful or distressingly grotesque, and search out their real nature. I guarantee you, things will look a whole lot different.

Be Beautiful!