I Don't Want To Look Like Them!
Several years ago, a book came out entitled, When You Look Like Your Passport Photo, It’s Time To Go Home. Although the book was primarily about travel, the title struck me as a metaphor for life’s journey. The question is: What and who do we want to look like at our journey’s end? When I first moved to New York, I often wondered why people were so mean and why it seemed impossible to ask anyone for a favor. Eventually, I began to deduce that maybe these people used to be nice, but after meeting so many obstacles, mean-spirited characters and "no's,” they learned to become as hard and heartless as the people they once despised. It's hard to know what to do when people don't behave kindly towards you. Do you forgive them and move on? Do you hold a grudge? Do you seek revenge? Do you rub it in their face when you succeed, to spite their condescension and efforts to squelch your rise? Do you become like all those faces I've seen where the spirit of kindness has been replaced by godless Grinch-like frowns? I have come to realize that the big city, too, is a metaphor for our life’s journey. God sends us to this earth with our talents, our desires and our ambitions. He also sends us tests along the way which we can use to refine us or to redefine us. And as we abandon ourselves and succumb to those who try and change us, the miles between us and where we came from become ever wider And then there are those people who drove us away from home, the ones who saw us as small and insignificant (most likely because they were) and so we strove to prove them wrong and make it big. By hook or by crook, we made it our goal not to return home without a hero’s welcome. But will you look like your passport photo when it’s time to go home? I remember as a little girl my mother used to send me to school spotlessly clean with two ponytails which were so precisely divided as if measured by an engineer. I always returned looking as if I had ridden a roller coaster during a tsunami. “Can’t you ever come home the way I sent you?” she often asked me. Perhaps only now I’m really qualified to answer that philosophical question. Yes! After so many years in NYC, I acknowledge that being nice is a wimpy survival tool. But on the other hand, if we start to become like all those people who wouldn’t give us the time of day or conspired so that we would fail then they won just the same. Either way they have controlled who we become. So should we be mean to people who were mean to us and become “bitches” in the making? I think, no. As tempting as it may be, I just won’t do it for the very simple reason that I just don’t want to look like them. In this week’s Bible reading we read about Joseph’s reuniting with his brothers. Now as second-in-command to Pharaoh he could have easily gotten even with his brothers for selling him into slavery and nearly killing him. Instead of doing so, he cries before them and tells them not to feel bad about what they did to him as it was all part of God’s plan. Interestingly, the Bible tells us that Joseph was very handsome and scholars teach that he looked very much like his father Jacob. Yet the Bible never speaks about Jacob’s looks. The answer is that Joseph’s beauty was a reflection of his pure soul and it was in that manner that he resembled his father. He never let anyone or anything diminish his light. He chose to forgive instead of hate; he chose to help instead of hurt; he chose to return “home” even better than God sent him out on his journey to the big city. How about you?