The Theology of One

“One, singular sensation, every little step she takes.  One thrilling combination… every move that she makes.  One smile and suddenly nobody else will do….”  This song from Broadway’s A Chorus Line is hardly the way we would dare to describe ourselves, is it? Yet it’s good, if incomplete, theology.

At a particular juncture in my life, I needed to select a song that an orchestra would play as my father escorted me into society (a story for another day perhaps!).  I begged the orchestra leader to learn the theme song from Leave it to Beaver but that suggestion left her cold, as other girls were choosing 40s standards and show tunes.

She asked if I’d like something from A Chorus Line, perhaps sensing that I was seeking the slightly edgy (if Leave it to Beaver can be considered edgy).  Thinking “T&A” was a little much for high society, I selected “One.”  And didn’t even wince as I sashayed along to the sound of “One, singular sensation, every little step she takes.”  It never occurred to me (until later when I crawled under a rock) that I was indulging in a fit of self-exaltation.  

Yet theologically, we are singular sensations, individual manifestations of God’s glory. Yes, we are messy, deluded, complicated little sinners, but we are also gloriously individual “thrilling combinations” of potentiality of what God wants us to be, for His purposes, for His kingdom.  Of what God will make us to be, if we choose it.

And to me there is no place holier than the international arrival terminal of a major airport.  I am overcome with emotion and worship as I watch the variety of faces and nations and expressions of greeting and untold stories that swim the tide together in a sea of traveling masses.  I can’t help but praise God there for the value He puts on individuals and the beauty of each individual specimen.  

Yet at other times I lose my sense of wonder over people.  There’s nothing that snaps me back to reality faster than asking God to show me someone as He sees them (especially when I am finding someone annoying and infra dig to have to deal with). Whoa… talk about dignity (or dig).  

A story of confession: I felt disdain (which takes annoyance to a new level) for someone I’d never met before. She was a regular in my gym, a prototypical uptight person.  There was less air in the room when she was there, and she exuded stress.  And I didn’t like (read: jealousy) her toned body and disciplined attitude.  Rather than empathize with her, I really didn’t like her.  I wanted her GONE. Instead I prayed for eyes to see her as God does, and wouldn’t you know she literally came over to the elliptical machine next to mine within minutes and struck up a conversation with me (randomly!)… and wouldn’t you know it (again)… I LIKED HER IMMENSELY!  Maybe if I got to know her better I’d even sing, “One singular sensation!”

God didn’t send Jesus to die primarily for groups, for programs, for systems (though His redemption includes these).  He is all about the one(s).  We can get so caught up in producing work that will touch many that we don’t have time to spend with one. One husband, one child, one friend, one stranger.  I’m preaching to myself here (which is always the case, I imagine) as I can think I have something I-M-P-O-R-T-A-N-T to do, and I can miss the one.  Or miss the chance to ask someone else to meet me as I am in that moment, one in need, one struggling.

I don’t have an important life, in a worldly sense.  But I imagine having impact, and want to, and even sometimes strive to (striving which mimics Sisyphus sometimes when I set off without any sense of where God would have me be).  But I’ll probably discover one day that the most important thing I do each week is to eat at Steak & Egg Kitchen for about 30 minutes every Thursday morning with my son.  One morning. One son. Privilege.

A few questions for my heart which so easily deludes itself:

  • Will I persist in learning a language if it’s “only” so that I can talk to one particular immigrant?
  • Can I learn to listen better without filters of what I expect and want?
  • Will I celebrate others in their specifity and glory even if they’re doing something that’s not my thing?
  • Could I begin to notice eye colors and not just general drive-by impressions? 
  • Would I dare to see people with a floodlight shining on them and not with a movie camera playing my projected vision of their role in my life on their faces (I got this image, which I love, from somewhere; illuminate me if you know where!)? 
  • Would I celebrate each one I encounter as another manifestation of God’s glory and seek to learn more of the person and more of God in that encounter?

God help me.  Really.

~ by Cary on October 29, 2008.

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