Listen carefully and you learn to distinguish the differing bird songs that fill the air in our backyard. Reading is occasionally interrupted by the distinct pecking sound that comes when the beak of a woodpecker raps a limb. Yesterday we were enjoying the late afternoon sun and heard just such an interruption.
Our presence near the bird feeders created tension in the birds that wanted to dine at the suet feeders but were unsure of us. Tentatively they would fly in for a moment to test their resolve and scrutinize our responses. We could easily be identified as predators – we are larger and our types, human beings, often care little about the birds of the air. On this day we hoped our feathered friends found us friendly enough to feel unthreatened.
Success! A couple of different woodpeckers flew in for a bite. I thought I identified them correctly. However, upon closer investigation I found it a bit more difficult. I could not get a good photograph of the smaller bird. My initial thought was that it was a Downey Woodpecker. But, the markings were a bit off. Maybe it was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Yet, I thought the larger bird was a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker! The red tufts of feathers seem to be the giveaway.
Now I had a problem. What about the bird I thought was a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, the one in the photo below. It more closely resembled a Red-bellied Woodpecker. The tint of red threw me. Maybe it was a Golden-fronted Woodpecker. Zooming in on the photo left me convinced it was indeed a Red-bellied Woodpecker. Whew!
Yes, so what! How often do we mis-identify others? We see their markings and we automatically assume that based on a few similarities or differences we may understand them, know them, with ease. Religious, Christian, categories get thrown around with such ease that it may be more difficult to pitch someone into a narrowly defined category. If we do this with thought leaders – they are Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, Fundamental – then how can we be surprised to find the ways in which people choose up sides in our churches, places of greater diversity than we realize?
The verities of birds in my backyard is what makes sitting out and enjoying God’s creation an occasion to marvel. Why would we not also marvel at the fearfully and wonderfully made human beings we encounter inside and outside the church as an occasion to embrace such diversity as a thing of beauty, created beauty?
Mis-identification, while occasionally a lack of perception, is often created by our hardened assumptions about others. We care little about taking time with others so in order to feign interest we presume, we assume. Decisions are made under the rubric of discernment and others are left to our definition, our categories. Subtly we dehumanize the other and maintain the sterility necessary to remain as we are, as is.
Take the time to look closer, to know better. Discover the wonder of diversity and the way it opens us up to greater possibilities in relationship(s). Others that we “other” may become the very means of grace that broadens our expression of love for our neighbors if we will take more time with them than to pitch them in this pocket or that one. The pocket being a euphemism for out of sight after an initial judgement. Sanctification does not come unless your as is changes to what will you become.
Here Jesus’ Way takes on just such a force. Reading of his life and way reveals that God in Jesus reveals a disruption, an interruption, to our as is, human beings as they are, way of life. Jesus opens us up to becoming and participating in the hope of a new world revealed in The Resurrection. Our penchant to ignore and demonize others resulted in the mis-identification of Jesus. Murdering him meant putting to death any force that calls attention to things as they are. When God raised Jesus from the dead it was both affirmation that there is a human need for a disruption, an interruption, an irruption and also a declaration of a new world, new creation. We read this as an event that says something about God – He will not let his promise of life be killed by those intent to keep things as they are.
How have you mis-identified others only to realize your mistake? Share your story.