There is a man in my neighborhood without a nose. I see him sometimes when I'm out running errands, at Dollar General, at the grocery store, at the gas station.
Did he have to have to have his nose removed because of some cancerous growth? Was it torn off in a fight? Was he born without a nose? I don't know what happened to his nose. I just know that when I see him, I smile and say "Hi" and he nods in answer. It is very, very hard to look someone in the eye and smile when there is a hole in the middle of his face.
I passed the man without a nose as I was driving down the highway last week, and seeing him again got me to thinking. Does he have a family? Grandkids? Does he like to eat fish at the lake, or to drink coffee with the old guys at Autry's? What makes him laugh? What makes him smile? Where does he work? Does he prefer Wranglers or Levis?
In my tiny little mind he is simply The Man Without a Nose. But unknown to me, that man has a wealth of life experiences, of stories, of personal likes and dislikes. He has a history - he is somebody's son, somebody's brother. He is so much more than a man without a nose.
Years and years ago, Steve and I attended Narcotics Anonymous meetings with young Marines as part of his job as the Substance Abuse Control Officer. "Hello, my name's Bob, and I'm an addict." "Hi, I'm John, and I'm an alcoholic." Although I understand there was some purpose in uniting attendees this way, something about that ritual disturbed me. I understand better now what it was. It narrowed each person into the one big, nasty thing wrong in their lives. It reduced them to an addiction, a broken past, a history of failure.
Sort of like my neighbor. When you first see him, you notice one big, nasty thing wrong with him. I wonder how many people get past that one thing to find out anything else about him. And I wonder how he sees himself.
In this fallen world, we all have big, nasty problems. Addictions. Deformities. Sexual perversions. Spitefulness. Critical attitudes. Pride. Gossiping tongues. Discontent hearts. It's a long list of disgusting sins, and we are all on that list somewhere, every single one of us.
But for the Christian, we are not defined by our sin...we are defined by who we are in Christ. By Christ's work on our behalf. By God's unfathomable love for us. By the Spirit's ongoing work of sanctification in each of us.
I am not what I once was. Scripture tells me that in Christ, I am a new creation. That even now, God is making all things new, including me. Although huge chunks of it still cling to me, although daily I must struggle against it, my old sin nature no longer defines who I am. It would be wrong for me now to try to shrink my understanding of myself down to the Big Ugly Sin that plagues me. Nor can my brothers or sisters rightfully pigeonhole me this way either. Bigger things are going on here now...huge, eternal, cosmic things that are swallowing up my sin in the enormity of God's love and grace.
As messed up as I am, I am Christ's beloved, a daughter of the High King of Heaven, an image bearer of God.
I wonder if the man without a nose knows about the amazing love of God?
3 weeks ago