"Poverty, we know about. It's poor people we do not know." [Sub-merge, John Hayes]
I am a creature of habit who gravitates towards the comfortable and familiar, what is similar. I acknowledge that which is different, but I fail to engage with it.
And so with the poor. I acknowledge the poor, but I fail to engage with the poor. And so, I do not know the poor.
I do not know what they need. I do not know what they have. I do not know what they think. I do not know how they feel. I do not know their struggles. I do not know their joys. I do not know why they are poor. I do not know how they feel about being poor.
But I will soon have a glimpse. Soon, my thoughts towards and opinions about the poor will be overhauled, if not shattered. Soon, I am going to move in and live among the poor. Soon, I am going to identify with the poor. Soon, I am going to call the poor friends. Soon, the poor will no longer be poor to me because I will realize that I, I too, have been poor. I have been poor all along.
This is it. This is the heart and purpose of my writing here: that I, that we, with unveiled faces, may behold the glory of the Lord, and in doing so may be transformed into his image.
To see God and to be like him.
There is something powerful, supernatural, and inexplicable that happens when we behold Jesus. In one of my favorite passages, John 3, Jesus is talking to Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, about how he might belong to the kingdom of God. He tells Nicodemus he must be born again, and then Jesus proceeds to say, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life."
This statement has profound implications and resonances with the Old Testament, which we may miss if we are not reading closely. You may recall the occasion in Numbers 21 when the Israelites complain (surprise, surprise) about being taken out of Egypt:
"'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.' Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died."
True to form, Moses implores the Lord to relent on behalf of Israel. The Lord tells Moses to set a fiery serpent on a pole, and in his mercy he promises that anyone who sees the serpent shall live.
So years later, Jesus says, in the same way that Moses lifted up the serpent and people were healed, so too, he, the Son of Man, will be lifted up on a cross, and as people look to him they will be healed.
Herein lies the power of beholding. As we behold the Son of Man, we are reminded of the Israel in us - the brokenness and lack of faith that plague us. As we behold the man on the cross, we are reminded of the character of God - the profound ways in which mercifully meets us in our brokenness. And most of all, as we behold Christ, we are healed, transformed into his likeness.
But how do we behold him? Well, of course in his word, the revelation of God himself to us. Arguably, in nature [though some would say otherwise]. And perhaps, if read rightly, there is a sense in which we can behold Christ, the image of God, in the image-bearers around us.
And perhaps we may see him most clearly in the poor. In Matthew 25, Jesus said, "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me."
We can not deny that God, for whatever reason, has a soft spot for the underdog - the sojourner, the refugee, the slave, the misfit, the orphan, the prisoner, the crippled, the barren, the poor, the elderly, the single mother, the AIDS patient. So much so that he came and made himself like one, like an underdog.
And so for me, this coming season is about beholding. Beholding God in unlikely, underdog places. Namely, beholding God among the poor. And in doing so, in beholding Christ in them, I hope to see myself - that I am poor and broken. I hope to see God - his merciful and kind character, his mysterious and wonderful ways. And I hope to be transformed - shaped, molded, and healed by the caring hand of my gentle Savior.
I invite you to join me on this journey of beholding - beholding unlikely places and faces - and being recreated into the likeness of our Savior.
As it has been, this space will be a place for creative reflections and periodic, sporadic musings. However, I cannot guarantee regularity; to be sure you're in the loop, you may want to subscribe to this blog to receive notifications about new posts.
It would be an honor to have walk with me.