Near my desk, in a picture frame I don’t dust often enough, is a fading photograph of our daughter, Amanda, and our son, Eliot. Amanda’s about six years old; Eliot has just turned four. They’re standing in the bright sunshine of an Easter morning. She has on a white dress; he’s wearing a light blue suit. They’re now 35 and 32, and this picture reminds me that, whatever their ages, they are always our children and God’s children.
I sometimes wish I could have a childhood picture of everyone I meet. I’d like to see their faces before worry etched deep lines in them, to look at their eyes before shattered dreams clouded them over, and to see their smiles before shame started erasing them.
I’d like to have a glimpse of their essential and enduing selves; to imagine what young hopes and joys might still be ready to dance from their hearts into the world; and, to remember that, no matter what they’ve done or failed to do, they’re children of God.
Even without their childhood photographs, I try to open my eyes and my heart and see people with compassion; but I frequently fail—like I failed in Wal-Mart not so long ago.
I was in a slowly moving checkout line. The cashier had had a bad day and needed everybody in line to know it. An older woman two customers ahead of me had apparently picked up the only blouse in the whole women’s department that didn’t have a barcode attached. The cashier had to call for a price check; the process took “forever.”
The middle aged man in line after the woman whose new blouse didn’t have a barcode had a credit card that couldn’t be authorized, another one that couldn’t, and finally a debit card that could. He didn’t speak much English, and the cashier’s repeating herself more loudly didn’t help to clear up the confusion.
A young man behind me, tattooed, dreadlocked, and on his cell phone banged his shopping cart into my back a couple of times.
I’d stopped at Wal-Mart, even though I was running late for an appointment. I’d hoped to get in and out of there in a hurry. Instead, the clock was ticking and I was getting more and more ticked-off.
I didn’t see the people in line with me as God’s beloved children. I confess that I saw them as annoyances and interferences. If my vision had been clearer and my heart had been more open, I could have been calmer, gentler, more patient, and kinder.
In Galatians, Paul said: “In Christ Jesus, you are all children of God through faith”—not so much by our faith, but by the faith—the faithfulness—of God’s mercy and love seen and heard and felt in Jesus.
We are all God’s children.
All means all; no one is left out: right and left, Democrat and Republican, Red state and Blue state, black and white, brown and white, male and female, straight and gay, rich and poor. Blue collar and white collar, polyester and wool, labor and management, Wal-Mart and Nordstrom’s. Single and married, rich and poor, literate and illiterate, healthy and sick, old and young, sinner and saint. God’s love for each of us and all of us makes us one another’s brothers and sisters.
Burley Coulter, the main character in Wendell Berry’s short story, “The Wild Birds,” says: “The way we are, we are members of each other. All of us. Everything. The difference ain’t in who is a member and who is not, but in who knows it and who don’t.” (That Distant Land, 356)
I’m determined to let grace keep widening my narrowed vision until I see that all is all, that everyone is God’s child, and that everyone is already and fully loved.