The God of Imperfections
The dog ate my glasses.
You may think this is the start of an overused joke, or my terrible excuse to get out of doing my homework (which, when you’re 35 years old means the laundry and grocery shopping), but it’s neither. It actually happened, two days before Christmas.
I left my glasses on the coffee table while I showered, and my dog stretched up high, pushed out her neck and grabbed my glasses with her teeth. Holding them between her paws, she nibbled on the arms, slobbered on the frames, and took an almighty great bite out of one of the lenses. My dog was fine, but my glasses weren’t.
The dog ate my glasses, and my world narrowed. I existed only in the space a few inches around me. Anything beyond that was a blur; a dangerous, isolating blur. Kitchen tables were my enemy and kitchen bench-tops their sadistic comrades. Cooking, ironing, anything that involved sharp, pointy objects, were opportunities for injury (and, if I’m honest, a little bit of slapstick comedy: What’s short, slightly tubby and says ‘Ow’ a lot? Mommy without her glasses).
For two weeks I lost my independence. I relied on others to help me with basic things like walking, cooking, and making sure I plucked out all my chin hairs. I felt demoralized. I lost my confidence. My chin was hairy. And yet, I am lucky. Once the replacement glasses arrived, I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I even could do the laundry (unfortunately). Late one night, as I tucked my new glasses into their box and placed the box high on a shelf, I realized that the ability to see is a privilege – and I had been taking that privilege for granted.
One in four adults* and roughly 17 percent of children** living in the U.S. have a disability. Behind these statistics are the carers, the families, and the friends who give of themselves in support. We live in a broken world. Bodies fail. Eyesight dims. Dogs eat our glasses. Most of us will live lives affected by illness, injury, disease and disability. And yet, as a church community, are we embracing this reality?
The Bible tells stories of the broken. We see God working through the outcasts, the poor, the ones whom the world forgets. God is the God of the barren women - Sarah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth - scorned for not living up to their social roles or gender expectations. God is the God of Jacob, the kitchen loving second born son. He is the God of the prostitute Rahab, the one righteous person in her city, who became the great great great (so many greats) grandma of Jesus. Ours is the God of a shepherd boy, the runt of the litter, who He made king.
Jehovah is the God of illiterate fisherman, the lame, the blind, and old women stooped with arthritis (Luke 13:10–17, The Message). Jesus himself was broken. A poor carpenter, scarred by hazardous, difficult work. He spent his ministry embracing pain, and taking that pain away. He wasn’t pretty. His Instagram profile picture wouldn’t generate a lot of likes, no matter what filter He used.
And this ugliness, this brokenness, this not Insta-worthiness (it’s totally a word, right?) wasn’t an accident. It was planned. Planned long before the Messiah chose to enter His human body, all the way back to the time of the Old Testament prophets:
“There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.”
(Isaiah 53:2–6, The Message)
Broken Bodies + Unbroken God
Who would have thought that the Creator of life, the designer of the human body, would choose a body less than perfect? In a world that seeks beauty, glamour, Insta-fame, the Author of us all chose brokenness. He chose pain. And all so that through His physical suffering we could be spiritually healed.
We all have a tendency to run away from hardship. We like to keep things pretty, beautiful; we equate physical fitness with power, success, fame. On social media, we create a pristine world of chic perfection. I am guilty of this. I sweat over each post. I practice posing. I remember to see if I have chin hairs. I engineer an image of wholeness. If Jesus had an Instagram account, I wonder what His image would be.
My glasses sit on my bedside table (I really should put them in their box). My dog sleeps in her bed. I look at my body, scarred, chubby, terrible eyes. As I age, my body will deteriorate further still. Bones may break, joints may wear out, my mind may tire. One in four adults and about 17 percent of children in America live with disability. How many more will experience disability as they age? And when they do, will we as a church be there?