The No.1 rule in our house is “Don’t do meth.” I’ve walked with people through many struggles and breaking out of meth is one of the hardest so I put it at the top of the list.
The second rule in our house is to acknowledge people’s existence. Those rules might feel a little random, but they are both life altering.
There are many things I love about Jesus, but what continues to draw me in was his willingness to see people. He saw through hypocrisy and called people on it. He saw the invisible people and ended up healing, gathering and eating with them. Jesus saw people and broke through the invisibility cloak to love them.
I wonder how different the church and Christians would be if we focused more on seeing people instead of judging and ostracizing them. What would it be like to make it clear to the people we encounter that their existence matters? What if we spent our energy reminding each other that what you do and who you are make a difference in this world?
I did the Mental Health First Aid training years ago and there was a video of a young man in California who decided he would jump off the Golden Gate Bridge unless someone spoke to him and cared that he existed. One woman asked him to take her picture and even though tears were streaming down his eyes, she only said thanks and hurried away. He jumped and was part of the 1% who survive, but his message was one of reminding us to see and to care.
Regardless of where you are in faith, we can all participate in the ministry of seeing people. We can greet people, learn their names, and smile at strangers. It’s not as creepy as you imagine and you may be the one to interrupt invisibility.
There is a “would you rather” card that asks if you would rather be able to fly or be invisible. Duh. Flying is cool and invisibility may let you in on some secrets, but it would get old fast.
I’ve experienced invisibility and it’s not a highlight of my life. One of my favorite times was at a big church meeting in Michigan when I got up to speak against some of the hate speech that had crept into the moral arguments people were having. I was standing at the microphone and our bishop (the dude in charge of the larger church) started moving on to the next business item. I had to holler “Tom.” I probably should have hollered “bishop”, but I hate to be ignored. He apologized and then said my favorite line ever, “I didn’t see you there; you blended in with the wall paper.”
God bless the powerful who are blinded by power. When I say God bless them, I mean God bless them with eyes that open and hearts that get tenderized. Watch out if you see me wearing my sassy pants because it’s my proclamation to the world that I’m not blending in today (unless your wallpaper is still from the ’70s).
Don’t do meth and do acknowledge people’s existence. I’m sure there are other important rules, like don’t eat Cheetos in bed, but those first two keep us in right relationship with the world and with each other.
•Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor for Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church. “Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.