This last weekend I hit up the local Walmart in search of car seat covers for our old Jeep. The store was packed in a pre-Thanksgiving rush, and as I made my way to the furthest corner of the store I had the opportunity to observe an interesting array of humanity.
Now when I use the word “interesting”, you need to know that I grew up with a mom who used two words to describe anything she didn’t like…but didn’t want to come out and say it.
“Mom, how do you like that sugar-free, jalapeno cake I made for you?”
“Well, Tim, it’s different.”
“Really, mom, what do you think?”
“It certainly has a interesting texture.”
Different and interesting were both mom-code for, “I hate it!”
Back to my stroll through Walmart and my interesting observations. By the time I’d found the seat covers I realized I was thinking that most of my co-shoppers were just “too _______________”. And there were a lot of fill-in-the-blanks.
- Too fat
- Too skinny
- Too sloppy
- Too tattooed (it wasn’t even good art!)
- Jeans too baggy
- Too little attention to their kids
- Eyes too shifty
- Too etc.
Somewhere around check-out stand #14, God got my attention. The way I’d been looking at people was so out of line with the way he sees people.
The more I thought about this I came to a couple of conclusions. The first is that I tend to rate people on a “bell curve”. Do you remember bell curves from grade school? They provide a means to graph statistical data, and they look like this:
The thought is that anything and everything can be plotted on one of these curves. At the very top is what’s most typical, known as the “norm”. Then as you extend out to the left and right, things become increasingly less normative, so that at the very fringes you find the statistical “outliers”, things that are freakishly not normal.
I realized that I always put myself at the top of the curve. I am my own definition of normal. I suppose that most people do the same thing: we become so entrapped with our own little views of reality that everything else seems outside the norm. This twisted thinking leads to pushing people further away into increasingly distant categories, defining them by how different they are to us.
The truth is that I’m not at the top of the curve (not even in my own home, let alone in my city or the world). To most others I’d probably be viewed as:
- Too white
- Too male
- Too rich
- Too religious
- Too focused on appearance
- And definitely too opinionated
My second conclusion was pretty simple. God doesn’t view people as “too” anything. He doesn’t plot people on graphs or place them in categories that push them away from his redemptive grace. God views us all the same: all are needy, all are loved, all are welcomed. There are no outliers with God.
The bottom line is that I’m not normal. And neither are you. I desperately need God’s help to get over myself so that I can truly learn to embrace others in all their crazy and beautiful diversity. And I need others to find his grace so they can embrace me (a very different and interesting person) as well.