My mother tells the story of a time when she and my youngest brother, who had a host of mental and physical disabilities, went to the mall. He was in a wheelchair and needed his oxygen tanks on all the time. It meant that the snake of oxygen tubing ran from the back of his chair, over his ears, and into his nose. His nose would bleed on occasion, a normal effect to having cold oxygen blasting into your nasal passages all the time. His eyes were shrouded behind thick glasses and they moved all the time. He rocked in his chair to help steady his vision.
They were walking and Joseph kept noting people looking at him “funny.” It wasn’t just the kids. It was the adults too. They were looks he knew well.
What’s wrong with him?
What is that tubing?
I’m glad I’m not him.
They were unspoken wherever Joseph went in spite of his incessant smiling and friendly demeanor. This time he’d had enough.
“Mom? I don’t like it when people look at me like that,” he lamented angrily.
Mom was usually on the side of trying to understand her fellow person. This time, she’d had it too, but she couldn’t be the one to shake her fist at the passersby, instead she instructed, “Why don’t you stick your tongue out at them?” They both laughed and each time he giggled. It relieved the pressure.
We are all, like my brother Joseph, interpreted by others. We all, like those walking by them in the mall, interpret each other. A glance at the arguing couple in the grocery store calls up potentially misinterpreted images an unhealthy marriage. Conversely, if I am arguing with my wife in the store, I cannot help but think how others are seeing me. Individually, we put our best foot forward to be interpreted “favorably.” Not necessarily “rightly,” but so that a certain adjective will be associated with who we are. Chivalrous, gentle, kind, insightful, honest!
It’s a trap. Nothing good comes from any of it.
But there is a solution. Like a good story, there is a resolution, a denouement, a healthy challenge, a sort of sticking out of the tongue to the normality of the situation.
And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
Our interpretations are all wrong. It is a fundamental truth that has gotten lost with the advent of Facebook and the wealth of Internet advice columns (though not limited to).
We are made in His image. Interpreted from the Most High God. Daily we are inundated with what we are doing wrong. How we are dressing or parenting or arguing or setting the table without the tact of a seasoned veteran. It also tints our own vision of others. At the risk of sounding like the advice columns I seek to avoid, we are seeing with eyes of this world and not with those of the one who numbers the hairs on our heads.
Dear reader, remember who you are, who your neighbor truly is. You are the son or daughter of the creator of dandelions and orchids. You are the son and daughter of the one who imagined brown hair, capuchin monkeys, couscous, dimples. Remember your name: Beloved. Forget what you are not: inadequate, incapable, or unlovable.
Find those thoughts, those patterns, those misinterpretations in your life, both of yourself and others and, maybe this once, maybe more than once, stick your tongue out, giggle, and step into the joy of being known and interpreted perfectly by the God who knows you better than you know yourself.