Tuesday, July 26, 2005

deceiving appearances

At the end of May, when I finally started going to the gym regularly, I ran into a man as we were working with the same machine. We decided to work together. I had been working out for hardly any length of time when I hurt my right shoulder. Not really badly, but a good bit of pain everyday. So I was trying to strengthen this, and my new acquaintance was doing therapy for rotator cuff surgery. In the next weeks, I saw him almost everyday and we usually said hello. I began to think that he looked familiar to me, but by that time, I figured that it was just because I’d seen him so much at the gym.
Tonight, Allison showed up much later than I did, and so I got finished long before she did, and kinda just piddled around with some different exercises while I waited. My gym acquaintance happened by as I was doing shoulder/deltoids, and we struck up a conversation again. Eventually, I asked him what he did for a living. When he told me, immediately I realized that I’d seen his face all over town, and on television on the news, in the papers, etc. Sheesh, out of context, your mind just doesn’t work all the time. He holds an elected state-wide office, and I voted for him. But when I voted for him, he had on a suit. Not this Nike shorts and muscle shirt stuff of the gym. So he had to ask me what I did for a living. When I told him, he acted honestly taken aback. He said he’d attended our school for two semesters back in the ‘60s. I was 3 years old at the time. Things have changed a bit. He was so surprised, that he had to introduce me to his friend and make him guess what I did and where I did it. Naw!
He later told me that he had told his wife about me before we’d actually even had a conversation. He’d told her that there was this rough, scroungy looking guy at the gym, but he was pretty sure I was a Christian – he could see it in my eyes. He just never dreamed I was a prof, and certainly not where I work. I told him that I’d thought he was a Christian too, but I never dreamed he was a politician.
It was fun thinking about how we’d come to be acquainted in this way, completely out of context of our day-to-day. How we’d formed pictures of one another without any knowledge of who we were outside the gym. But the greatest part was, once knowing, to apply what we’d learned from the impressions that we’d made. I had to reconcile what I’d come to see in this man with the bias many of us have with political leaders. He had reconcile a visual image he’d had at first with what he came to see in me, and then learn the extent of it.
It is exciting to see Jesus in someone before you’re supposed to. To see who they are apart from what they do. To see how outward appearance betrays our prejudice and cultural bias and shallow thinking. To have these things shown to us in such a gentle exposé, can really change our thinking for good. We live and work and operate in culture. We respect that culture and take shape that will allow us to impact there. When our superficial cultures collide in the commonality of Christ, it is certainly an eye opening experience.