Jesusians

A Courteous Contrararian

Not About Easter

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Apr• 06•15

Today’s service was great. The music, the preaching, the bonhomie. It was a good gospel message on a day when a good gospel message is somehow even more appropriate than ever. We went to a crowded restaurant after a Baptist nap, the usual Easter. It was great but this post isn’t about Easter.

It is about our perceptions of people. Or at least, my perceptions of people. I am surprised by how shallow I am.

I went to a party and I knew that someone at that party had recently had a particular augmentation, actually two of them. I was excited to see the results but not out of prurient interest, it was because I could personally observe the “after.” I had never known someone that had that particular set of enhancements that I had known “before.”

I was afraid they would be garish; that she would want to get her money’s worth. I came up with a little joke in case they were. I knew she would want a compliment, if possible, and I wanted to be ready to change the expectation if need be. I wanted to be nice without lying.

When I saw her at the party she was absolutely stunning. She had not gone overboard. I wouldn’t have to lie.

I thought I would use my joke anyway. “You look great! …Did you do something with your hair?” She laughed and told me what had really changed, as if I didn’t know. I asked her if young men still looked her in the eye and she told me not so much.

I couldn’t get over how different she looked. She was pretty before but now she was exotically beautiful. Like a model. How could the change she made make her face prettier to me?

I thought about when somebody loses a lot of weight, how their skin folds because the fat is gone but the skin that covered the fat is still there. I thought maybe the opposite principle was at work: she had the same amount of skin but it stretched now over a larger area underneath. Maybe her facial skin was tauter and that made her prettier. I didn’t think it was just her makeup.

And then she ‘fessed up about the other change she had made. She had ordered colored contact lenses from Italy. They were more subtle than the ones I’ve seen people wear here. The total effect shocked me. The hair, the makeup and the eyes, the …

I can’t believe how shallow I am, how I judge a book by its cover. I have known this normal, modern American middle-class girl for years. She has brains and drive and a kind heart. But suddenly today she seemed like an angel, noble and courageous, and every other trait one could wish for in someone they knew well. But she hadn’t changed. She was still the same girl I have always known.

I have always thought I was a good judge of character, but then, doesn’t everybody? And I think I am really good at reading someone’s character from their face.

When President Lincoln’s Secretary of War (now called the Secretary of Defense) resigned in the middle of the Civil War, Lincoln’s advisors were almost unanimous as to who should replace him. He picked another man instead. When they asked him why, he said he didn’t like the first man’s face. When they protested that a man isn’t responsible for his own face, Lincoln told them every man over forty is responsible for his own face.

I guess I have to face the fact (pun intended, but only as an afterthought) that I am not as good at reading faces as I thought. Because when the face changed ever so slightly, my opinion of which character traits were predominant in the person changed drastically, until reality corrected my forming opinion.

Perversely, I like it when I discover I am wrong about something I was sure of.  Maybe it’s because I’m so rarely wrong. Maybe I enjoy the novelty. Or maybe we all like learning new things. Especially when the new things are about us.

Really, I think it is a confirmation that my mind is still functioning. It is not what it once was, a marvelous tool that was truly a gift from the Lord. Time sands away the once-sharp edges. Time, of course, is a euphemism for older age and a rotten lifestyle.

But though I squander his gifts, he remains lavish in his gift giving. Awareness of my own mortality, perhaps the source of all sin (Hebrews 2:14-15), turns out to be a great gift as well. It focuses my attention on the more important tasks that remain uncompleted. I watch progressively less TV. I think more. I try to serve my family and friends better. I am learning – ever so slowly – yet life has enough time in it for the tasks and for the learning.

So thank you Lord for all of the gifts you have and continue to bestow on me. Daily. The gift of life, of breath, of understanding, of love and being loved. And thank you that you, more aware of your own mortality than anyone ever, you who knew the time and the place and the means of your own death, still did not sin.

More than that, more improbably than that, you did it for the joy that was set before you, which can only be the salvation of people everywhere. Because of love, the very love of God for us.

And more yet, you rose from the grave and appeared before us. Not because you needed to, you could have ascended directly from the tomb, but because we needed you to do it, to demonstrate that it could be done. As a tacit promise, a broad stroke comprehensible to all: one man rose from the dead and promised we could all likewise arise from the dead.

He changed the lives of about a dozen common men who followed him, the resurrection made them capable of more than they had ever imagined for themselves. Today he changes lives in the same way, in every minute of every day.

We all have our perceptions about people, right or wrong, and we all have our perceptions about Jesus. But every perception about Jesus revolves around one thing. Did he or didn’t he rise from the dead to live forevermore?

Oops. I wasn’t going to talk about Easter.

 

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