August 21, 2016
We came home yesterday from a week at the beach in Delaware and the theme of the week for me was perspective.
It began the very first night, when I took the kids down to play at the beach. Holden had to drive separately, so it was just me. 3 kids, 1 adult, lifeguard off duty, and a whole lot of waves. That was when I realized two things about waves. Number 1 - Apparently waves look much bigger and scarier to parents than they do to kids. I remember when I was a kid and the bigger the wave, the better. I'd ride them to shore, sometimes getting swooped but just getting back up again and running back into the waves. Now, as a parent, the waves just keep rolling in and all I can think is that every single wave is a potential drowner of my children. Parents and children have a different perspective on waves. And Number 2 - when you look out into the vastness of the ocean, It is very hard to tell the actual size of a wave. I would see these gargantuan waves in the distance and yell “Watch out! It’s a big one!” gesturing madly at the wave about to crash behind them. And pretty much every time a few seconds later the wave proved itself to be not much more than a ripple. And then when I thought everything looked calm and safe, suddenly there would be a wave twice my tallest child's height menacing behind them.
It’s hard to get perspective at the ocean.
The theme of perspective continued the next day. The kids are good swimmers, but Maya hadn’t yet learned how to dive through the waves in order to make it safely through a sudden big one. And so I began to teach her, starting with the little ones until just a little while later she was diving through the bigger ones like a champ. She learned that even though it feels counterintuitive at the time, if you dive into what feels like an overwhelming wave, you can flow through that roaring energy rather than being toppled and crushed by it. Learning to dive through waves changes your perspective of the ocean - it helps you to look at the ocean with respect rather than fear.
I guess since the idea was already on my mind, the importance of perspective was what stood out most strongly with our Gospel reading from Luke too. And so I want us to experience the perspective of this woman in our story together just for a moment.
We’re going to take a little walk around the church. But a few instructions first. We’re going to try walking like the woman in our story for today. So as you walk, I want you to hunch your back over and put your head down as much as possible and keep your eyes down. As you walk quietly, pay attention to what you see and how you feel.
After circling, we talked about what we noticed. Dust and imperfections on the concrete floor. Only feet all around us. We felt isolated. We couldn’t tell who other people were. We felt vulnerable, not sure what might be just out of our small circle of sight. We felt discomfort and pain.
Now circle around again, but this time with your back straight and your head up, feel free to look around and look at the people around you. Again, as you walk quietly, pay attention to what you see and how you feel.
After this walk, what we noticed was very different. We felt more positive, we saw the leaves blowing in the breeze and the sunlight shining through the windows. We felt like part of a community. We were laughing and having fun.
Now you can sit down.
We were bent over for just a minute. Just imagine what it must have been like for this woman, bent over and unable to see beyond the floor in front of her for 18 years. For 18 years, straining and twisting to avoid possible dangers in her path. Probably in incredible pain. Seeing only the dust and dirt beneath her feet. Unable to look up at the stars or watch the leaves rustle in the trees. Unable to look into the faces of the people around her. Unable to play with the children in her life. Unable to help as much as she’d like with things that needed doing. Everyone either staring at her in horror or pity or fear, or else just completely avoiding her. Marginalized and devalued. Invisible.
And then Jesus saw her. He didn’t just notice her in the corner of his eye, or look at her with sympathy. Jesus saw her whole being, not just her outward disfigurement. Jesus saw her with love and compassion and invited her over. Invited her … whom no one wanted to see or touch. Her … whom everyone avoided like a leper. Jesus affirmed her as a daughter of Abraham, part of God’s very own beloved creation, and put his hands on her. Something that maybe no one had done in love for more than a decade.
And her perspective changed completely. After 18 years of pain and loneliness, she had stopped imagining healing was possible. Had stopped even hoping for a kind word or a loving touch. She was resigned to her miserable plight. But suddenly she straightens up, her eyes meet Jesus and she knows that she has seen God. She feels known and valued. She sees the beauty of the world again, feels a part of the community again. And she is overcome with joy and thankfulness.
And she wasn’t the only one with a new perspective. When Jesus disrupted her status quo, it surprised everyone. The community that had ignored and belittled her for 18 years, now was able to see her as well. And they rejoiced right along with her. Together, they’d had a taste of how things can be in the Kingdom of God. No one broken or unseen or excluded. The world repaired. They’d all gotten a new perspective, a God’s eye view.
I wonder how our perspective could stand to change? Maybe we have been standing hunched over in some way, isolating ourselves from God and the people around us and we need to lift our head just a bit. Or maybe there are people in our lives that we are devaluing or walking past and we need to learn to see them differently. Or maybe we need to look out into the waves in our lives and began to see them as they really are. Or maybe there really is a huge, scary wave in front of us and we need to learn how to dive into it and see how we come out on the other side rather than running from it in fear and anxiety. Maybe a change of perspective could transform everything.