In my undergraduate days, I had a friend whose body was severely wracked with cerebral palsy. In addition to this condition, several of his limbs had simply not grown or formed properly. In order to get around, my friend required a wheelchair. And here was this individual with a bright and sharp mind who was seemingly trapped by his own body; limited by his own body.
He confessed to me once that his greatest pain was that he felt so alone. He felt incredibly lonely. When I asked him why, he said that he believed that to many people, he was ugly. “People think that I’m ugly, Chris. No one will be with me because I am ugly. No one will touch me because I am ugly.”
In his confession, I heard the deepest yearning of all of us: to know that we are not alone; to know that there is another person who cares for us; to be touched or held by another human being.
I knew the reality of his fear was not unfounded. Humans are a shallow people. In our fear that we may end up alone, we will judge others by their appearance, their wealth, who they know, etc. We judge others so as to show why they should be rejected from companionship. And when we judge others, we also do it in order to show why everyone deserves our companionship instead. And so my friend feared that his physical appearance would separate him from companionship.
But I told my friend, “Did you know that God made you? That He knit you together in your mother’s womb? That He knows you through and through, and that you are His beloved child?” My friend replied, “How do you know?” I replied by embracing him and saying, “That’s how I know.”
In Jesus, God comes down to the world and embraces us with a physical touch. He washes our feet and feeds us when we are hungry. In Jesus, God says that he is preparing a kingdom where people show hospitality to the stranger, care for the sick, and visit those in prison. The best way to proclaim this kingdom is by embracing the lonely.
Some of us will call other people ugly. But when we do so, we are simply hiding our own ugliness; the ugliness that comes from hate and fear. When God looks upon us, he does not say that we are ugly, but that we are loved exactly as we are.
That’s the kingdom that I want to be a part of. Not a kingdom that lives in fear and judges based on difference, but a kingdom that lives in love and has the courage to embrace everyone.