Browsing the aisles for holiday inspiration, his voice pulled me from my mental list-making. Soft words flowed from his lips in an unintelligible stream. This babbling was strangely melodic with no discernible pauses for breath, and I couldn’t resist peeking around the corner to seek the source. The man stood in front of a display of newly released CD’s, body swaying slightly as he continued muttering to no one I could see.
I know my eyes widened a bit as he turned in my direction. Wearing a filthy brown (Or had it once been green?) jacket and equally crusty jeans, the man was a mess. He wore no shirt underneath his open jacket and his pants were too large, so his ‘tighty-whiteys’ were displayed in all of their not-so-white-anymore glory. His torso had that lean, sinewy look that told me his only likely mode of transportation was his own two feet. Dank, stringy gray hair and craggy features made it impossible to determine his age.
I tried not to gape at him and saw others do likewise; casting furtive looks in his direction while pretending nothing was amiss. And still the words came tumbling from his chapped lips in a never-ending torrent. Words and phrases poured out disjointed and lifeless, yet going on and on. The poor gentleman was obviously not playing with the proverbial full deck.
Quite frankly, the man made me nervous. For those of us who don’t deal with mental instability on a regular basis it can seem quite alien and unpredictable. We finished up our browsing and left the electronics department.
I thought no more of the incident until I was in the store’s checkout line. I heard a soft murmuring behind me. I stealthily glanced back to see the babbling man place a newspaper and some carefully counted change onto the register’s conveyor belt. The sight of this near-naked madman and his dingy Fruit of the Looms was disconcerting. I turned back to the cashier who looked at him, then with a sigh and a look of disgust, she rolled her eyes at me as if to say, “See what I have to put up with?” This saddened me, so I looked back at the man and smiled before grabbing my purchases and leaving the store.
On my way to my car I pondered how this man’s life relates to what I’ve been trying to grasp lately about true identity and how we see ourselves. I realized that this man is no different than me in that he is a spiritual being wearing a temporary physical costume. Granted, his costume was broken and tattered. In fact, it was pretty effectively covering up what he really is: a unique being created in the image of an infinitely creative God. Completely loved and cherished by the only One whose opinion matters.
Then it occurred to me that I had not seen him in that light. I had not looked at that man with a heart of love and compassion. I had neglected to look beyond the costume and see the essence of him. A man beloved of his Creator. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that he might be cold without a shirt or proper pants and that I could have done something about it. I mean, it honestly did not cross my mind at all.
I have so far to go.
I am just now beginning to really see my own true identity. Daughter of El Elyon, most high God. Complete and without blemish. Loved beyond measure. This knowledge is releasing me from the shackles of my costume. The skin I wear is not who I am and can neither increase, nor decrease my ultimate value. The roles I play of wife, mother, daughter, friend, teacher, church member, are all good but do not define me or determine my worth. All of this is insanely liberating though it should, and I trust will, at some point lead to more.
As I learn to accept my true identity in this raw and beautiful way, I become more and more intoxicated with this God I serve. His incomprehensible love for me is becoming a palpable reality. But this mind-bending love and the freedom that accompanies it is not intended to end with me. It is supposed to spill out of me and overflow to those around me.
Jesus told his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14, ESV) We have been given the same glory that was given Christ himself. We are one with him. He is the light of the world, thus we are as well.
Lord, let this truly settle in and take root in my soul. I want to be free from the enslavement of my costume. Grant me God-colored glasses, that I may see the true essence of others. I want to see their value and learn to simply love them. May I be the light of the world as Jesus said.
This isn’t some little candle like the Sunday School song implies. Nowhere in scripture does it teach that our light is small. In fact, we are told that we have the same power within us that raised Christ from the dead. Why would we perpetuate the myth that our light is little?
No, this light is Christ himself in me. I’d say that means there is supernova potential here, don’t you?