Sometimes my Associate Pastor articles for the monthly church newsletter are really good, sometimes. This one from January 2016 is one of them.
As we make our final approach to Christmas and reflect on the ways God loves us and in return we love God and each other, I bring you thoughts I had last year as we headed into a new year. The sentiments of loving someone who might be different hasn’t changed, though I feel our society needs to be reminded of that more now than ever. Plus, thoughts on God’s love for us – no matter who we are or how we look – doesn’t change…EVER. Remember that – God loves you for being wonderful you.
From the January 2016 church newsletter (with some edits):
My sister often recommends books to me by simply handing it to me and saying, “Here, read. You’ll like this.” And so she handed me a book in November and said the same thing and added, “You’ll cry cuz I cried in the last half of the book.” Thanks Sis.
The book she handed me is entitled Wonder by RJ Palacio. It is a young adult book about a ten year old boy who is facially impaired, as I think his sister put it. Auggie wasn’t born with a “normal” face and after years of being home-schooled, he is finally going to middle school.
The book is told from various perspectives – his sister, friends, and Auggie himself. I’ve cried a lot while reading it. It’s a heartwarming story about being different, how people perceive and judge others, bullying, love, empathy, sympathy, friendship, family, and so much more.
I think in a time when there seems to be so much judgment going around in our world, a book like Wonder speaks volumes, so much so I feel adults need to read it more than youth. Youth and children understand things so much differently and can often look past the otherness of someone. Sadly, youth and children don’t rule our world, not yet anyway.
I feel sad that 2016 is started out with so much hate and fear. The bullies that tormented Auggie in the book were poking fun out of fear for someone who was different from them, who might not chew his food a properly or whose eyes hang a bit too low. So too because a few people do something horrific, a whole group gets labeled and shunned out of fear and hate.
God created us to be different. God wanted us to be different and that includes those who worship differently than us, who have darker skin or who love someone of their own gender.
There’s a great quote from the movie Saved that goes, “So everything that doesn’t fit into some stupid idea of what you think God wants you just try to hide or fix or get rid of? It’s just all too much to live up to. No one fits in one hundred percent of the time. Why would God make us all so different if he wanted us to be the same?” Funny enough – the quote came from a pregnant Mary in the movie.
My prayer for this year (and every year) is that the Auggie’s of the world don’t feel left out, shunned, bullied or are told they are not welcome. That Jesus’ teaching of “Love thy neighbor” isn’t something that is preached from the pulpit and left hanging in the air after the congregation has left. My prayer is that our world gets out of this fear and hate mode and that love may once again be felt. My prayer is that the Auggie’s of the world have friends, family and strangers who will stick up for them and show them how special they are.
To All the Auggie’s and others of the this world: God loves you for who you are. So stand tall, do not fear, and know you are not alone.