what does health look like?
During these past few weeks when I've been reading and teaching through the minor prophets, I've been profoundly struck by the importance of humility, brokenness, and gratitude in our relationship with God. The repeating revelation of this truth has, during this same period, been coupled with a growing question regarding beauty.
As I was riding home on the bus today from the Mariner's baseball game, the diversity of people was perhaps best represented by two single individuals sitting close to each other. One woman had an inflated earth globe, sort of like a beach ball, sitting in her lap. She was reading a book about living in the world after oil runs out. Her short hair, full lashes, careful make up, artsy earrings, and chic yoga pants all contributed to her aura of health and beauty.
Sitting across from her was a large man wearing multiple layers of unwashed clothing, a snow cap covering his head, and unshaven, uneven whiskers covering his face. His eyes, when they were opened, looked tired. He was leaning on a cane, even when sitting down. Getting off the bus at the same stop as yoga girl, his movements were labored, and he walked with a limp. By the time he exited the bus, she was far down the road, the whole world in her hands.
Of course, one can't know very much at all by making these simple assessments, and any conclusions drawn would be unfair to both individuals. Still, I was more aware today of the possibility of beauty in this broken man, and more aware of the possibility of tragedy in this young woman. Again, to speculate such would be wrong. But just easily, one could be way off by attaching stereotypical meanings to these two: She's using her gifts to change the world. He's burnt out on something, and now paying the price. Maybe. But it's just as possible that this man, in his brokenness and poverty is living more heroically than the woman. We just don't know unless we peer behind the curtain and get to know the real person. The snapshot assessments of beauty are wholly inadequate if beauty has to do with the soul.
Perhaps the same thing is true of churches. The snapshots can look good or bad...but mean little. In fact, Jesus more than hints around that our conventional wisdom snapshots would lead us to believe that we're healthy when we're really sick. And too, we'll miss true health when it's staring us in the face because it's criteria is so remarkably different than what we would presume.
Sometimes, as a person, a pastor, and a leader of a church, I feel like Yoga Chick: well educated, healthy, working hard for the best interests of the world, or at least the world I'm carrying in my hands. Other times I feel like the man with the cane: broken, dependent, but persevering, showing up, getting on with it in spite of myself. I'm wondering in all of this; where's the real beauty, and where's the cosmetic show?