American Jesus by fashion photographer David LaChappelle struck a chord in me today as I was reading an essay given to me by a friend entitled Live Welcoming To All. In the essay Sue Monk Kidd, the author, paints a picture of her encounter with a woman on a long train ride home one night. The woman whom she did not know, sat across from her crying. From time to time the woman would look up at Kidd as if she were wanting and needing some act of compassion or tenderness. The author states that she knew this by the look on the woman’s face but was consumed by other thoughts and found it easier to mind her own business.
The thought of this woman and what she was asking for on that train ride home so late at night continued to haunt Kidd. She dreamt that the two were in a boat together. The woman would not stop crying. The boat was quickly filling up with tears. Kidd, in an attempt to save them both, began bailing buckets of tears, but to no avail. Finally, Kidd stops bailing and looks into this woman’s eyes. She notices that as long as she is looking into this woman’s eyes, the tears don’t flow. As soon as she looks away, they begin again. Kidd’s interpretation of this dream was that it wasn’t necessary for her to try and fix the woman’s pain, but simply to be available and present with her heart. What was required was that she look into this womans eyes and truly see her; that she unwaveringly take her in.
I see this concept at work in David LaChappelle’s photograph. Jesus replaces Mary as the figure-head of the Pieta. He holds non other than troubled pop star Michael Jackson in his arms while looking to God as if to say, ” forgive this man, accept his humanness. He was troubled but now he is not. He is yours, love him the way he deserves.” Now, of course that is my interpretation, but unlike the traditional Pieta where we have Mary holding Christ and weeping in agony, Christ simply looks to the heavens as if he is presenting the broken body of Jackson for healing.
Both of these illustrations bring about the idea of respect. So much of our lives are spent in the busyness of day-to-day tasks. Often we forget to be as respectful of others as we know we should. I am guilty of this very thing on a daily basis. However, if I could learn to see all people through the eyes of Christ, I would see their worth and dignity no matter who they are or what they have done. I wonder what the world would look like if we could all live welcoming to all?
- Participating In Compassion (lynnwright00.wordpress.com)