Around our house, we joke about how the cold gets into my bones. My kids throw around the “old man” label when I complain about it being cold. To compensate, I develop seasonal habits of indulging in hot chocolate and consuming lots of different soups, especially homemade chili, to try to convince my bones they’ll be okay. I have oversized blankets strategically placed on a couple different couches, extra comforters on the bed, and thick socks in ready supply. Sometimes, however, it seems that no matter what I do, the cold gets into my bones.
While I can’t wait for my spring thaw, I am thankful for a few other things that have gotten into my bones. Some might call these convictions, ones that run so deep they no longer reside simply in our minds or our emotions. Instead they somehow become essential to who we are. We simply know them to be true. Maybe they haven’t always been clear. Perhaps, we’re not sure how or when we became so certain of these convictions. But somehow, at some point in time, they became an unquestionable reality within which the marrow of our lives flows.
Over the years, I have become aware of a few of my bone deep convictions. The reality of God as revealed through Christian scriptures is foremost among these. Closely connected to that vision of who God is lays another conviction, one I tend to express this way: each person is a once in eternity expression of God’s love and faithfulness to the rest of God’s creation.
A Growing, Deepening Conviction
Looking back, I can name a handful of influences that shaped this conviction. My parents’ practices of hospitality and the consistent generosity with their time and resources certainly played an early formative role in getting this conviction into my bones. Working in group homes for adults with cognitive and other developmental impairments as well as with teens who were under state supervision and care also shaped my vision for the inherent value of each person. My time serving on an anti-racism team and living in communities marked by economic and racial diversity certainly contributed to the growth of this conviction.
I think the first time I articulated my growing awareness of this conviction was after reading a couple of Brennan Manning’s books, notably Ragamuffin Gospel. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that the way I am wording my conviction borrows heavily from his writing, though I’ve yet to find a direct quote or section to reference.
In grad school, I remember reading some of John Calvin’s reflections that we are called to serve others because God’s image resides in them. A short time later, I came across Martin Bucer’s insights that we serve others because God’s image is in us. The combination of Calvin’s and Bucer’s allowed this idea to sink in much more deeply, until it rested not just as a notion in my mind or a feeling in my heart, but to the level of something that I had accepted as being fundamentally true about the universe.
Each person is an expression of God’s love and faithfulness, no matter how distorted that expression may appear at my first, second, or 27th glance. It didn’t even matter if the other person recognized themselves as such. Somehow, through these influences and likely others that I have yet to recognize, I became persuaded deep down in my bones that each and every person is a once in eternity expression of God’s love and faithfulness to the rest of God’s creation. And that conviction cultivates within me a deep desire to discover and marvel at and treasure the ways that God’s love and faithfulness emerge in the people around me.
As I’ve been drafting this post, I’ve wondered a couple times, “why now? why talk about this conviction at this point?” On one hand, I suppose it’s fair to say this is not the first time I’ve mentioned this idea. I remarked briefly on this on my other blog (Muddied Prayers) around the time Pope Benedict stepped down. I also included a few thoughts on some of these connections in an article I wrote for Comment in 2014. The conviction has been shaping my reflections and perceptions for a while now.
I suppose I could respond to the “why now?” question by remarking on any one of several recent public conversations: Syrian refugee resettlement, persistent immigration fears in the States & Canada, #blacklivesmatter and Urbana, Wheaton & Dr. Hawkins. Take your pick. No doubt the accelerating soundbite demonization of others through the US presidential election cycle will offer more opportunities to engage this conviction in the months ahead. When it comes down to it, as with most things that get into our bones, I’m writing now because I seem to be in a season where everything is impacted by it.
Given the conversations I’ve been engaging in lately, I imagine I’ll add another post related to this conviction soon. But for now, I leave you with a couple questions to ponder a couple of questions:
- What convictions have gotten into your bones?
- How do those convictions shape the ways you see and interact with the people around you?