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... Warts and All

At our last round of Local Tables, we leaned into the story of the Rich Young Ruler from the Gospel According to Mark. It’s the story of a young man who brings a big question to Jesus: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responds by rattling off some commandments, and the young man says, “Yes, got it. I’ve been doing these things.”

Then, the story goes, Jesus looks at the young man carefully and loves him before saying, “There’s one more thing. Go sell your stuff and give the money to the poor. Then you’ll have treasure in heaven.”

The young man walks away grieving because he had many possessions.

But before the man walks away
Before he even has a chance to respond
Before he begins to think about whether he can sell his stuff to give it away or not
Before all of that and even before that

Jesus looked at the man carefully and loved him.

As if to say: “I see you. I see the good, the not-so-good, the hopes and fears, the dreams and the disappointments. I see what you’ve done and know what you’ll do. I see all that makes you who you are — warts and all — and I love you. Period. Nothing changes that. Ever.”

Even when we walk away. Even when we’re unsure whether we can fully live into who God is calling us to be. The love of God is there. And it goes with us, meeting us in every moment.

Our new Associate Pastor at Christ United Methodist in Southern Village, the wise and faithful Kristen Hanna, recently shared a post on her Facebook page about the new Mr. Rogers documentary. I haven’t seen the film yet (anyone want to go?), but it also came highly recommended at our last Briar Chapel Local Table!

The post that Kristen shared centers on a duet between Daniel Tiger and Lady Aberlin, two characters from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. Daniel Tiger is singing about his doubts and questions, lyrics that are full of his own shame and fear, inadequacies and insecurities — those thoughts that wake us up in the night. And Lady Aberlin responds not by invalidating Daniel Tiger’s feelings, but instead by describing what she sees, meeting Daniel Tiger’s words with her own of love and grace. As if to say: “I see you. I see all that makes you who you are, and I love you. Period.”

Lady Aberlin looks at Daniel Tiger carefully and loves him.

It’s a beautiful post — worth reading or saving for later. You can find it here: “Doubt, Truth, and Daniel Tiger”.

Here's the good news. This is where we begin, friends. We begin with Jesus’ gaze meeting our own — seeing all that we are, all that we’re becoming — and loving us with a love that meets us where we are but doesn’t leave us there... thanks be to God.

I'm reminded of this beautiful poem/prayer/blessing from Jan Richardson. I return to it often, needing these words to wash over me.

Beloved Is Where We Begin

If you would enter
into the wilderness,
do not begin
without a blessing.

Do not leave
without hearing
who you are:
Beloved,
named by the One
who has traveled this path
before you.

Do not go
without letting it echo
in your ears,
and if you find
it is hard
to let it into your heart,
do not despair.
That is what
this journey is for.

I cannot promise
this blessing will free you
from danger,
from fear,
from hunger
or thirst,
from the scorching
of sun
or the fall
of the night.

But I can tell you
that on this path
there will be help.

I can tell you
that on this way
there will be rest.

I can tell you
that you will know
the strange graces
that come to our aid
only on a road
such as this,
that fly to meet us
bearing comfort
and strength,
that come alongside us
for no other cause
than to lean themselves
toward our ear
and with their
curious insistence
whisper our name:

Beloved.
Beloved.
Beloved.

—Jan Richardson
from Circle of Grace
© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.

 

Brent LevyComment