13 May 2010

Meditation: "What's the Story?"

"O Lord, you have searched me and known me...you formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." --from Psalm 139

"The interior life is not a question of seeing extraordinary things, but rather of seeing the ordinary things with the eyes of God." --Thomas H. Green

Dear Friends,

I recently saw the movie, ''Date Night" starring Tina Fey and Steve Carell (two of my favorite comic actors these days). In the movie, when they are out on a date having dinner together, this married couple (Claire and Phil Foster) play a game called, "What's the story?" Phil will look at Claire and, nodding in the direction of people sitting at a nearby table, will say, "So what's the story?" On the spot, Claire has to create an imaginary, zany story about the people. The sillier, more outlandish, the better. Laughter, of course, ensues.

Sometimes I play a less silly version of this game myself. I'll see the picture of someone in the paper who has committed a crime, and staring at the picture I'll wonder, "So what's the story?" Or I'll see a person holding up a sign at an intersection asking for work or food or money, and I'll wonder, "So, what's the story?" Or even just as I watch the person in line in front of me at the store, I'll wonder, "So, what's the story?" And when I "play" this, I'm not wondering about just the factual information of their life--where they have lived or what they have done or who their family is. I'm going deeper and wondering about all the dynamics and circumstances and choices and influences in their life that have brought them to this time and place. Sometimes, when I do this, I imagine the person as a tiny baby. And it reminds me that they were once--as we all were--a vulnerable, helpless little child that was completely dependent on others. And then I wonder at all that has transpired between that time as a baby and the person I've just seen--which is another way of asking, "So, what's the story?"

We human beings can be so quick to make assumptions about people, to assign certain motivations to the actions of others, to judge them based on scant information. But human beings are so complex, too mysterious, that it really isn't possible to know another person completely. God knows us inside and out, but finite human beings can never definitively, completely know one another.

So when I find myself irritated by another person, or frustrated by them, or when I find myself judging someone, something that helps me honor the mystery of their humanity is to imagine them as a very small child and ask the question, "So, what is the story?"

Blessings, Jeremy

Prayer: Life-Giving God, we thank you and praise you for the incredible diversity that flows from your creative impulse. Help us to honor the mystery of the people that will cross our path today. Amen.

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