Friday, October 30, 2009

Gerard Manley Hopkins

My, how time flies -- already the end of October! I am sitting at home wrapped in a blanket waiting for the furnace repairman to return and take care of my furnace. I appreciate times like these because it is so rare to have previously unscheduled free time. I paid some bills, played some lexulous, and now I am diving in to some Gerard Manley Hopkins, whose work has been recommended by a number of poet-friends as of late, and it is available online, which makes for easy reading. Here's one:

Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–89). Poems. 1918.

13. Pied Beauty

GLORY be to God for dappled things—

For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;

For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;

Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;

And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;

Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)

With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;

He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.


What a delight to read! Love it.

Off to read some more.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Big Nose! Big Nose!

This morning while my daughter and I ate our eggs, Lydia looked up and said, "Mom, you have a big nose." "Yes, I know, Lydia," I replied, and she said, "How small is my nose?" "Tiny."

I immediately thought of a joke my dad used to tell, over and over, when I was little. A man with a wooden eye was always really self-conscious of his eye. He had a really difficult time getting a date, but one night at a party, he saw a girl he thought might like to dance with him. She was attractive enough, but she had a big nose. Maybe this girl will understand me, he thought to himself, and so he walked across the room, still feeling self-conscious. Would she notice his wooden eye? When he finally approached her, he asked her if she wanted to dance. "Oh, would I!" to which he replied, "Big Nose! Big Nose!"

har har har.

Lydia was observing a documentable fact -- my nose is bigger than hers. She's three. I'm 27. It happens. At some point, the fact that I have a nose was turned into an opinion that it is too big, or too long, or somehow unattractive. "It's a nose!" I say to myself, "my nose! What does it matter?" But every now and again I catch a sideways glance in the mirror or find a photo taken at the wrong angle and I wrinkle up said nose and think, "ugh."

I think we all find ourselves self-conscious about something on us or in us. Sometimes the list is long, and it varies from day-to-day. Some items never seem to leave the list. Some feel like they've been there as long as we can remember. Someone or something in our pasts planted a seed of self-doubt that made us consider ourselves against an impossible standard: perfection.

As I typed that word, the verse from Philippians 1:6 came into my mind, "He who began a good work in you will carry it into completion until the day of Christ Jesus." "Completion" here shows up in the KJV as "perfect" -- and in the Greek is the word, "epiteleō" - perform, perfect, accomplish, finish, performance, make, do.

I think it is safe to say that when we are very young, our self-image is rather neutral. It is only formed based on the outside influences surrounding us - our parents, friends, and strangers shape and mold that self-image... for better or for worse. Our self-worth and self-image are determined first by what we hear and then by how we process it. Some comments are easily dismissed; other opinions embed themselves like weeds. As we grow older, that self-image is fed by repetition externally and internally.

If our self-image is slowly created by outside influences and our own bad habits of repeating those opinions, then the work of Christ is rebuilding that self-image in Him. Regardless of whether we have an inflated view of ourselves or a seriously deflated view of ourselves, God wants us to view ourselves in light of Him. If we are basing our identity on how we measure up to the world's standards, we will either be puffed up and egotistical, self-conscious and defeated, or crashing back and forth between the two depending on our own successes and failures. God tells us to find our identity in him. This isn't new - we were, after all, made in His image. The work of Satan and sin twists and destroys self-image and identity for every person. It is the redemptive work of Christ that renews and "perfects" us. (What does the perfect nose look like, anyway?)

Gradually, the standards for the proper dimensions of one's nose are rooted out of our conscious and replaced by the word of truth: Jesus says, "I designed you. You are mine. I made you in my image. I know you. I love you. I adore you. You are beautiful. I am making you holy. I have begun a good work in you, and I will carry it to completion."

Thank God - I don't need to be concerned with the size of my nose. That's not what he's measuring. In 1 Samuel 16:7, "The Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'"