When my nephews have been really young, they’ve always been in love with their own reflection. As tears threaten, I hold them up to a mirror, repeat ‘Whoozat? Whoozat?’ and job’s a good’un. (Though, come to think of it, I should probably hit the good pronunciation ground running rather than sound like a cartoon character). It’s like they’re overflowing with joy at their own embodiment. There’s no guilt or self-consciousness but all giddiness at the proof that they are a body as well as a mind.
In time, I fear, they will start to narrate that face they meet in the mirror. And they probably won’t be rushing up to strangers in the street beaming “don’t you just love being touchable? Isn’t being reflectable the bees knees?” Instead, they’ll be told that there are “problem areas” to be managed, that some noses and ears are “too big”, that types of skin, hair and a person’s colour palette should all be diagnosed and treated accordingly. Don’t just look: assess, evaluate, strategise.
I do it all the time. Categorise strangers like I’m Goldilocks. I, terrified of being put under a critical microscope and found unworthy, could not be more hypocritical if I tried. Trust me, I don’t want to, not even a little bit. First, for selfish reasons: the more I train my judgemental gaze, the more I will subject myself to it. But ego aside, because a world filled with object lessons in ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ rather than humans, each reflecting something of God’s character, and with their own deliciously unique stories, would be beige-boring. The world compressed into a list on Buzzfeed- shudder. If the most I think the world has to tell me is consumer culture’s profit-oriented narratives appropriated in my own accent, then I have little hope of hearing God’s voice or seeing His workmanship.
James 1:10: ‘ My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry’.
And if I was slower to classify and narrate, then I’d also be slower to be disgruntled with the body God gave me. I’d be like my little nephews, gleeful about wriggling my toes, praising God for hip-sways, and relishing the variety of humanity. And heck, I’d save a fortune.