aha! through you i see me

Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah.” Jesus said, “On this rock I will build my community and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16.15-17, 18b)

Jesus asks, Peter answers, and Jesus affirms the revelation as foundational, the ground upon which community is established.

Turning away from a primarily theological viewpoint and looking through a chiefly human lens, I see complementary and contrasting parts of an inescapable experiential reality: individual identity and life in community.

“Who do you say I am?” Good question. Any of us could ask it of others about ourselves, for it is a part of the work of our communities to help us discern our identities. And this, individual identity confirmed in community is at the heart of every human bond – whether with one in our most intimate relationships, within the larger fellowship of our families and friends, or in the myriad groups with which we associate.

I think about race. The events of this month in Ferguson, Missouri, with the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by the police and the immediately ensuing and ongoing protests, raise painfully afresh the specter of our American irresolution about race, and some would add class.

Still, over time, we, the global human race, inexorably have moved beyond once clear boundaries and, at times, fixed barriers between and among peoples into a vastly more complicated inclusive and diverse world.

I wonder. Will we, can we carry with greater, graceful equilibrium our pride in our individual heritages and our common human history and destiny? Will we, can we, in regard to and irrespective of race (or culture or class or whatever else that distinguishes and divides us), look into one another’s eyes and, seeing ourselves more clearly, say, “Aha!”?

Individual identity confirmed in a community envisioned by Jesus against which “the gates of Hades cannot prevail.”

Again, from a human experiential, relational point of view, I hear something here about the death-defeating power of our awareness of being part of our global human community that can overwhelm, overcome the death-dealing confines of a self solely or even largely centered in one’s race (or culture or class or whatever else that distinguishes and divides us).

Do we, dare we choose to gaze into the eyes of the human other, yea, even the cosmic Other and, beholding ourselves more clearly, say, “Aha!”?

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2 thoughts on “aha! through you i see me

  1. Hmmm, thought about the power of this overnight and feel compelled to share a story. As you are aware, Tim and I recently purchased an RV and have begun our weekend adventures in it. I’m guessing that you wouldn’t be surprised if I share that we don’t see many people who look like us on our journeys, especially not in the campgrounds.

    Last weekend we went to Natural Bridge VA, a place I had long wanted to go. At the campground where we stayed, I was out walking the grounds and went to use the restroom. It was one of the most beautiful rest rooms I’ve been in and I couldn’t believe I was on a campground! Four women were in the restroom standing in front of the mirrors doing their hair etc. When I walked in all four women turned and looked in my direction. One woman looked shocked, two surprised and the other woman I believed looked afraid. So I said “good morning” but only one of the women who had looked surprised to see me returned my greeting.

    I was closest to the woman who looked afraid and as we all stood there, she grabbed her huge basket of toiletries and tried to stick it under her arm but it was too big. I thought to myself, “seriously, does she really think I want to steal her toiletries?” I wanted to be pissed off but the basket holding her items was REALLY nice and I wanted to know where she had purchased it. So in the nicest voice I could muster, I looked right at her and said “I really like your basket”. And I waited….. She slowly put the basket back down on the sink and said “oh, thanks!”. Aha, That was all it took.. She then told me where she had purchased it, how much it cost, how she stacked the items in it etc etcetc. I then shared that we had returned to camping after more than a two decade absence and were still making checklists for items we needed to get stocked up on things.

    She laughed and began offering all sorts of camping advice, and then the other women joined in too. To use the words of the old R&B song, we had begun a “a meeting in the Ladies Room”.

    As the lady who initially looked afraid and I continued to chat, we moved closer and closer to each other as if now friends. We could see into each other’s eyes at that point. I clearly remember thinking… “She reminds me so much of me!!”…. Going out of her way to provide information to someone who was “new” at something!! She even talked fast like me, and was so excited about what she was sharing. Again, just like me!

    At least 20 minutes went by before she and I parted. We had such a great conversation…. If I had read this awesome post of yours last week, I surely would have said “aha, I can see myself more clearly” through this woman. By then I had forgotten about the fact that she clearly seemed afraid of me at first simply because I had walked into her space and looked differently from her. I’m now wondering what she was feeling about our encounter… As she left the restroom she was smiling and waving…. And I felt really great that maybe both of our misconceptions about the other, based on race, had been put to the side, over something as simple as a basket of toiletries! As I re-read your blog, all I can say is “Aha!” and Thanks!!

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  2. Beautiful story, Loretta, which speaks to precisely what I’m getting at here. Actually, it speaks, you speak to what I hope – that we, humans, no matter our differences (and whether visible or invisible, for example, our intentions and attitudes, which, until we act on them, can remain hidden or guarded), can begin to look at each other as human beings (sharers of the same race, inheritors of the same world, and common makers of our destinies, and common leavers of our legacies for succeeding generations) and behold ourselves anew and in a new way. To borrow Marcus Borg’s phrase – to see ourselves again for the first time. Again, beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it with me.

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