Have you ever played that game that starts with the question: If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be? I remember in Jr. High reading an article in a teen magazine that said your nose shouldn’t be any longer than from the 2nd knuckle of your index finger to the tip, and no wider than your index finger when you bend it in a u-shape and place it over the end of your nose. None of that worked for my particular nose. A softball had smashed my nose a couple of times, my attention span when playing catch wasn’t particularly long with so many other things going on in the world at the same time. So my nose was a bit or more crooked, and way longer than my 2nd knuckle to the tip of my finger. I remember standing at the end of my parents bed before retiring to my room one night and telling them quite firmly that I needed nose surgery. I showed them the index finger measurements and attempted to explain to them the seriousness of the situation in terms of my likely lack of success in life if my nose weren’t in correct proportion to my face. They pretended like they had no idea what I was talking about and as I recall, told me my nose looked great with my face and to go to bed.
I’ve wondered through the years how much impact my lack of nose proportion hurt my chances at opportunities in life. As a senior in high school and upon finishing 4th at the Regional track meet when 3rd would have propelled me on to the state meet in the 3200 meters, could it have been my nose that slowed me down or sped up the girl in front of me? Maybe in that organic chemistry class in college, my B average could have been raised to an A had my parents understood the importance of a correct nose in relation to intellectual strength. Maybe God would not have felt the need to call me into ministry when I had just begun a career in Jr. High English education and was cheerleader sponsor in Medicine Lodge, America, if my nose had been adjusted to fit the expectations of my position. I wonder, perhaps you do as well, would my sermons be shorter if my nose was? Wait for it . . . snort.
My goodness it is sometimes way tempting to find reasons why things haven’t worked out for us the way we may have liked, isn’t it? I am poking fun at my rather dramatic Jr. High years, bless my parents for not sending me to outer-Slobovia during those years, but I’m not certain our attraction toward finding outside reasons for our internal disappointment ever really goes away. Sometimes those reasons are far more justified than my silliness above, and still we must make our way in life and I think try and make peace with who we are, how we’ve been created, and the life experiences that have brought us to this place.
There is a great beauty (far beyond nose length and width) to a life embraced and lived in the midst of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, in which we co-create, in which we respond as best we can given who we are and the resources we have both inside and outside our souls. No one knows the exact journey we each walk, but I am convinced that the image of God lives and breathes and beats in the heart of each one of us – finding our way to simply “show up” as Brene’ Brown invites us to do in our lives, is an act of great courage in and of itself. When we’re willing to show up for ourselves and for those around us it has less to do with any guarantee of success, less to do with any assurance of acceptance, less to do with any promise of ease; and more to do with a willingness to accept and risk loving ourselves and each other into our own peculiar lives and ways of being in the world. I’m want to think that if we loved ourselves and loved our neighbors as ourselves (that sorta has a familiar ring to it) we might have less fear and thereby less verbal and physical and destructive hate that is so readily expressed, and received, and sadly echoed in too many places from too many voices.
I never have had my nose reapportioned to appropriately fit my face, nor run in any state track meets, nor aced any organic chem. classes, nor preached very many shorter sermons. AND I have had opportunities to meet folks jogging with my dog on the public access path behind my house, and meet folks for whom organic chemistry led them into the medical field who have helped and cared for people I love; and to meet folks who, even when my sermons aren’t shorter, give me a fist bump and a hug or two before heading home for supper and bed on Sunday nights after the 10:45 morning service finally ends. Snort.
Maybe the game doesn’t start with the question if we could change one thing about ourselves what would it be, maybe it starts with the question if we could love something about ourselves better what would that be? If we could make peace with something terribly difficult in our lives what would that be? If we could forgive ourselves or someone else for something we are quite justified in holding onto what would that be? If we could “show up” for ourselves or others when the world tells us it’s better for us to stay less visible, where would we be? Hmmm, more than one question, but I think God’s creative life has way more than one answer, and maybe in a multitude of diverse questions and answers, grace, kindness, and love win!