Last weekend, my sister-in-law, Rachel, suggested we watch The Greatest Showman. And how grateful I am she did! The film is not a documentary about the life of Phineas Taylor Barnum, the founder of what became the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. It is however, a wonderful story loosely based on P.T. Barnum’s life; it is about living fully into who you are most truly, recognizing the divine in all people, and an exquisite account of profound grace: beautiful imperfection.
Howie and our two boys and I, fully absorbed in the story, watched as our 17-yr-old Lysander was overcome by tears during a scene toward the end of the movie. [spoiler alert] Barnum grew in fame and was gaining traction with his enterprises when he hosted an elite gathering to promote his latest venture, the singer, Jenny Lind, and barred entrance to the performers of the circus out of evident embarrassment. Later, after the circus building burned to the ground and Barnum appeared to have lost nearly everything, we find him wallowing in misery at a local bar. The circus performers eventually trickle in, and begin reminding him who he is and what they became because he saw beauty in their deformities – they go to him and welcome him back after he shut the door on them.
Grace and mercy.
“‘hide away,’ they say, ‘we don’t want your broken parts,’” Keala Settle sings as the Bearded Lady. Yet decides, “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be. This is me.” Each performer, paraded out because of their deformities are given the opportunity to recognize their humanity, their true worth because someone recognized their true beauty – the spark of the divine. Barnum briefly lost sight of that, blinded by fame and greed, but they shone the light back on him.
Last weekend was also Confirmation Sunday. Ten of Howie’s eighth-graders stood in front of the church to confirm, “this is me. This is what I believe, what I’m empowered to do.” Because others saw the divine spark in each of them and helped them notice God’s own image within, they had courage to stand in front of an audience and reflect that light back on us.
Confirmation means to me . . . [Listen, to hear the voices of ten eighth-graders shine God’s light onto you in beautiful imperfection]
Take a few moments to bring mindful attention to who you are.
Quiet your thoughts. Your body. Slow your breathing.
Breathe in through your nose. Breathe out through your mouth.
Are you bruised?
Do you feel alone? Shut out? Deformed? Unworthy?
Who in your life sees you for who you are – loves you no matter what?
How do you feel under their gaze?
Do you sense the gaze of Jesus – the profound grace of pure, unrelenting love for you?
Allow that light to fill your mind, your soul, your body.
Now, consider who, in your day, you might turn your gaze on – to shine that light back on.
Maybe it’s an eighth-grader coming into her own, trying to figure out who he is, struggling to find meaning.
How might you be community to that person – that is necessary, that is human, that is divine? Because it has never been more urgent that we intentionally be community to these young people. because, to be able to recognize and say, “this is me” is only possible when they also know, “this is we.”
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1Jn4:7,8)
And today, may you walk at the pace of profound grace.