First impressions rarely fade entirely, but this is a tribute to our foolishness. When the the twelve of Central Walk first met, we were twelve strangers, each with a past, each with a history, and each in a sense a mystery. Nobody knows what blocks built us into who we are today or what paths led us to where we are. While it is easy to think we know each other after a month and a half, a prudent pastor in Colorado gave us a reflection which stops judgements, lengthens patience, and guides eyes to look deeper, both amongst ourselves and with all we encounter along the way. Respectare–the evident root of respect—means ‘to look again.’ We are not open faced creatures; we are layered, layered deeply. We cannot label or box, we cannot disregard or judge.
Back in Reno, we met with the flamboiant, flagrant side of the culture of death as we prayed outside the local abortion clinic. In the deafening cacophony of the abortionist’s insults, blasphemes, and vulgarities blasted over the loudspeaker, one could easily forget respectare. It is easy to forget that every man and woman who has a part in the daily horrors of every abortion clinic is a man or woman of depth, of layers impenatrable for the human mind.
Deep within each bears a mark, an image of the divine, a destiny intended for Heaven. Once upon a time their stories began as innocent infants. Once we would have prayed for their births. One day their stories wrote tragedy. A thousand days, a thousand years brought them to stand in that dreadful place. Nobody knows what lies behind those eyes; nobody knows but the Seer of all. Nobody knows but the master Author who is deeply striving to turn our tears to rejoicing, sin to salvation, and somehow, someway to write a happily ever after to all our tragedies.
Incomprehensible mysteries are the hearts men and we are fools when we think we know a man by the length of his prologue. Whether walking with this beautiful group of familiar strangers or encountering souls along the walk, I’m reminded of the timeless wisdom of the sagacious character Atticus Finch, that “if you can learn a simple trick…you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
I think it’s only when we begin to see the vast mystery of God’s creation and the transcendent beauty of every person that we can come to a sincere appreciation of the dignity of every human life. We can never love the unborn if we cannot first love the born.We cannot proclaim the dignity of every human life if we cannot recognize the face of God in those we encounter daily. We cannot understand the profundity of the call to defend life if we think we can probe the depths and understand the deepest parts of those around us. If we lose our sense of mystery and awe, forgetting to give others another look, we lose our compassion and run the risk of becoming modern day Pharisees. We must look again, we must look deeper. If you think you know some one, you’re only wading in the shallows. We must look again, we must look deeper, for so we are and so we all stand breathless in the hand of God.