I remember the first time my world came into focus.
I was in the 5th grade and I had just donned my first pair of prescription glasses. In an instant, life came alive in technicolor and no longer resembled abstract art.
I hadn’t really noticed leaves before, but now I stared in wonder at how perfectly blended yet distinct they were, attached in loose clusters to the trees lining the busy street. I could see!
The fact my glasses were nearly as big as my face didn’t, at first, strike me as particularly problematic. It would, later. But that is fodder for another post.
Ever since that day, I have been dependent on lenses to bring clarity. Without them, everything around me is, quite literally, a blur.
A few weeks ago I was exposed to a different sort of corrective lens that served to adjust my spiritual sight.
I was distributing raffle tickets at Love Santa Ana and decided to linger by a platform settled at the far end of the field. Parents with phones aloft for filming were eagerly anticipating the moment their girls took to the stage.
A dance team, comprised of a dozen giggling elementary aged girls from a local community center, was ready to perform. Ascending the platform, some were so eager to dance their bodies seemed to bounce and spin on their own accord. Others mounted the stairs so reluctantly they looked like they could bolt at any moment. Once united on stage, however, they carefully found their places, knelt with their backs to the crowd and waited for the music to cue.
As soon as the first notes from their song came bellowing from the sound system, the girls twirled around and began dancing, arms and legs flailing enthusiastically. Synchronization appeared optional, but their energy was undeniable.
My favorite part came when the troupe formed a half circle and each girl took the spotlight, one at a time, highlighting their unique skill. First a cartwheel, then a hand stand, then a back bend, and so on. As each girl performed, fellow dancers, and the audience, cheered them on. All was moving along at a reasonable cadence until it came to the group’s youngest member. Timidly inching forward, it became evident she had forgotten how to do her signature move – a jumping-jack with a twist. Facing the audience, she made a sheepish attempt at the jump, leaving out the twist. Bashfully glancing back at her teammates, she was greeted with ready smiles, words of encouragement, and examples of how it was done. With renewed courage, the petite prima donna turned back toward the crowd and executed her move with so much power and grace, we all broke out in wild applause.
Heartened by their teammate’s resolve, the remaining performers continued showcasing their skills until all had been seen. They gathered, one more time for a corporate bow, then each took turns saying their names. Each dancer was seen; each girl was known. When the last name was announced, they milled around for a few seconds, slightly unsure about how to close their act, then straggled off the stage.
Returning to my task, I pondered what I had just witnessed. To the cynic, it might have looked like a provincial attempt at imitating art. However, to the parents, the performance was a perfectly imperfect masterpiece. For they were looking through the lens of love, and they saw clearly.
It struck me that that we, the Body, aren’t altogether unlike that dance troupe. To the untrained eye, we might look like a bunch of misfits awkwardly trying to embody Christ’s care to the world, but through the eyes of the Father, our collaborative effort to bless the downtrodden looks like a perfectly imperfect offering.
We are called to reveal God to the world through our love for Him and each other. In this collaborative dance, each comes forward at our appointed time to offer our unique gifts to the greater work. By God’s amazing grace, He allows our broken, imperfect selves to partner with Him, and each other, in spreading grace. And He sees us, each one, as a delight.
If I choose to look at the Body through God’s lens of love, my judgment will be more accurate. Otherwise, I might miss the point altogether of what the dance is about and become cynical, judging other’s efforts. I also might stop dancing myself if I think I’ve missed too many steps along the way.
What I saw on that platform left me longing for a return to childlike abandon. Those girls felt pure joy simply at being together. They helped each other and demonstrated an uncomplicated appreciation for each other’s giftedness.
When I choose to look at the Body and its members through this lens of love, I see beauty. It is a choice. And it’s a choice I’m learning to make each day so I can see better.
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. –2 Corinthians 12:9
Tamara Carpenter is part of Newsong’s Board. You can read more of her writing on her blog: tamaracarpenter.com