"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I know very well."
(Psalm 139:14 NRSV)
I have to start off bragging about Rick and Nancy Adler, two highly dedicated followers of Christ at Creekwood. On Saturday, November 18, they came to a special needs respite training, which, in and of itself, is awesome being the Saturday that Thanksgiving break was starting. But it was what our Director of Special Needs Ministry, Stephanie Hunter, reported as their reasoning that floored me.
"We just want to be the best Sunday School teachers we can be, and we know some of these kids will be in our class."
Can we all say a collective "Praise Jesus" for this attitude? That is taking the Great Commission in Matthew 28 and the words of Proverbs 22:6 (and not to mention our goals at Creekwood) and living it out to the fullest. That is recognizing that all children are wonderful creations of God, and deserve the same amount of love that God gives any other child.
This Sunday after church, my family sat in a full theater that must have been spraying pollen into the air for 90 minutes, because there were not a lot of dry eyes in the room. The movie was Wonder, based off of the same-titled book, and features a young boy named August Pullman, a boy living with Treacher Collins Syndrome, a syndrome obvious by his many facial deformities and history of surgeries. Unfortunately, the next sentence I was about to write was, "It's obvious that August is going to get bullied."
But the movie is so good because it re-tells the same story from multiple perspectives and lets us uncover the uncertainty and anxiety we all feel from time to time. It helps to explore the phrase, "Be kind to everyone, for everyone is fighting their own battle." And it helps move us to a place where we ought to measure a person not by the appearance we see, but by the content of their character.
Last night at our Screenagers showing, a point was made of how young people, and especially young women and girls, change their behavior rapidly to match outward appearance expectations. Young women have most likely grown up their entire lives being judged by their outward appearance, with comments such as "You're so pretty," while boys are judged off of how far they can throw a ball or on their math scores. No wonder girls tend to post 19 selfies all taken within 5 seconds of each other. Wouldn't it be great if we all just knew we were wonder-full?
Wonder is the mysterious feeling of something being bigger, better, or more meaningful than it would appear. Wonder is the feeling of lifting our candles on Christmas Eve for the 1,000th time and still feeling awestruck. Wonder is the hero we carry in our hearts who is little more than our mom, but she's so much more than that. Wonder is what God made you with and as.
You are so much more than what you appear. You are so much more than what people say. You are defined by this wonderful expression, "Imago Dei." It's Latin for "Image of God." You are defined simply by God's love. And what you create out of that, is how you bless the world with your wonderfulness.
I pray that through the joy and stress of the holiday season, through the family dinners and parties with friends, through the pressure to get just the right gift, and more that you'll remember how full of wonder you are...and that God has the first and last judgment about who you are. And as we'll talk about this Sunday, there's room for everyone on the nice list.
Go be wonderful and wonder-full this week. May you not be defined by anything of this world, but only by the love, grace, peace, mercy, and joy of Jesus Christ.