Friday, April 07, 2006

Behind the words of the worship songs, historic Christian art passed by. A Byzantine looking Jesus healed a blind man. A medieval Jesus stood among his disciples. Then the hand of God creating man from Michelangelo’s Sistine chapel appeared. “Look how purposefully God reaches out toward man and how the man can hardly be bothered to even hold up his arm,” I mused as the image panned out for a fuller view.

The presentation zoomed back in to focus on the two hands. The next thoughts came to my mind in a jumble together: “Look at that big crack in the picture. I wonder where they get the pictures they use? I guess they use images from slides taken of the originals. I wonder why it’s preferable to have the cracks there instead of PhotoShopping them out? I guess it’s because it lets people know they’re looking at the real painting, at the very images that Michelangelo himself painted, instead of at a replica.”

The images kept changing but my mind was stuck on the cracks in the pictures of the Sistine chapel and how those cracks indicate authenticity. I remembered our friend in Mexico teaching that “sincere” means “without wax” because merchants would glue broken bits of pottery or fill up cracks with wax so people would pay full price for something when in reality it was damaged goods. I thought about how often we try to fill up the cracks in our lives and act like our life is perfect and we’re fine when in reality what we do is keep people away from the real us. But it is the cracks that show that we are authentic.

We had just been working at a Christian festival where skateboarders and BMX and motocross riders had put on a show followed by a “gospel presentation.” At the time I had wondered why the guys doing the sports didn’t tell their story instead of bringing out the “professional Christian.” I figured that the organizers must have thought the speaker would do a better job speaking than the athletes, but I think they missed the point. Whatever “cracks” or deficiencies might have been present in the athlete’s talk would have been outweighed by its authenticity, by the power of the interest the audience had in the athlete because of his abilities.

Near the end of the church service that evening a woman with Cerebral Palsy stood up to share some of her story. I frequently had trouble understanding her as she labored to speak but the power of the words I did understand would have been missing if they had come from a less “cracked” source.

Note to self: don’t worry so much about your “cracks”, your deficiencies and inadequacies; they might be the very thing that gives authenticity to your life in the eyes of others.

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