“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also… you cannot serve both God and wealth.”
Matt. 6:21, 24 (see also: 1 Tim 6:17)
“I sought him whom my soul loves; I sought him but did not find him.”
Song of Songs 3:1
Today on the shuttle, nearly to Clark, a young woman and her toddler got on. I know nothing of the child, or even of children in general, but this one turned around and looked at me, and I was captivated. Such a beautiful, trusting face and enormous brown eyes that stared at me unabashedly. No dirty sleepless smudges under those eyes.
It made me think about how we interact with people. Adults have this strict code, especially involving avoiding eye contact with other adults (although, something Ian and I learned early on is that it’s crucial to keep eye contact when having a disagreement because being cruel to somebody is nearly impossible when you’re looking them dead in the eyes). We, college students, are y et young, but when I look into my peers’ eyes I see so much exhaustion, sorrow, pain – and cageyness. Everybody has their secrets, deep dark ones or small little ones. Pain accrues, one small pain atop another, until we all find ourselves cold, jaded, the innocent directness lost in a flood of struggles. Now I understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:2-4: “Become like little children” – not the coldhearted adults of the world but wide-eyed innocents seeing God’s wonders for the first time. If you offer a child a gift, would he or she reject it? Hardly! But adults become so reliant on themselves they cannot see or accept the free gift God offers them… Indeed, have become so sophisticated that they refuse to see the offering. Sometimes the hypocrisy, too, of God’s own people serves to drive people away. Because for all of our hopes and talking about innocence, Christian adults have to live in the world – “In not of” – and for all our struggles the world taints.
In Sociology we read the article “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema;” I read it once without realizing the trick, but then suddenly our professor asked, “Who are the Nacirema,” and I instantly knew. If you haven’t read “Body Rituals,” please click the link and read the article before continuing with this blog.
I’ll just throw in a little space-filler here, so you won’t be tempted to cheat and read the answer before you read the article. Ian and I have been blessed by God with the ability to get a good education, live in a comfortable apartment, eat good food and drink pure water. He is able to spend this term in London, and God is good, allowing us the ability to fly me out to London to visit him. Yet I worry about our finances unduly: we aren’t frivolous spenders; what we need we buy, and what we don’t need… Well, unless it’s technology, we don’t buy it. No, seriously though, we don’t actually spend that much money: so what am I worrying about? What do I fear? Not being able to pay for all of our college educations; not being able to pay rent; not being able to buy food; not having enough money to fly home over the summer. Will any of these things happen as a result of my going to London, or Ian spending money while he’s over there? No. I have no doubt in my mind that if for some reason we fell into financial difficulties, we could secure a loan from either of our families. Neither Ian nor I are going to have our educations stopped dead because of lack of funding.
My deepest problem, then, is not the money – it’s trusting that we are provided for. God has richly provided for us, yet I cannot close my eyes and fall back, trusting I will be caught. I make a big deal of the value of trust – and rightly so, because without it, no relationship can last. But it seems that, before I can ask others to trust me, I have to be able to offer them my unconditional belief in them. God has always been there for me, providing what I need; now is a chance for me to accept his provisions and let go. Just let go.
Back to the Nacirema. Rereading the article is an eye-opening experience when you realize that the Nacirema are US. Body rituals? Heck yeah, who isn’t at least concerned with how their breath smells? Just now I cought a whiff of somebody’s foul breath here in the lab and you immediately think, “Ew, that’s a dirty person.” And I realized that woah, I spend a lot of time in the bathroom – though for me, I take nearly a bath a night. I find studying easier in the tub because the allure of the computer decreases exceedingly when I’m in a warm, buttermilky bath (thanks, Mom!). This article is a fascinating way of shedding light on ethnocentrism, because as I read it I was thinking about how primitive this all sounded, how ridiculous and silly that some people group would go to all this trouble for their teeth or their bodies. But looking at it, I have to realize that Americans as a culture do believe that we’re born ugly and have to work to escape that fate. We go to ridiculously extreme lengths to avoid “ugliness,” being “out of shape,” and so forth. I even worry that my pony-tail isn’t completely flattened on the top, that there are strands coming out. When I was a kid I saw women with big poochy arms that, when they lifted their arms up, the fat and skin hung down and jiggled all over the place. I resolved never to look that way (I was maybe eight at the time!), and frankly if I discover my arms jiggling like that I feel horrified. As a culture we exercise a ridiculous amount as well as spending billions on diets – to look good. Many cultures look at people running for exercise and find that completely incomprehensible.
On the other hand, as the richest culture in the world we have every opportunity allow our bodies to become “unnatural.” Food is abundant and necessity of physical labor not so; as a result, we devote some of our precious time every day to working towards that impossibility, The Perfect Body. As far as ethnocentricity goes, reading the article makes you realize that our culture is not always right and that we have our abundance of strange quirks as well.
– KF –
32 days to my husband.