Friday, August 08, 2008

What's on Your Face?

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What’s on Your Face?

President Thomas Jefferson, along with a group of men, contemplated crossing a swollen stream on horseback. After several successful crossings, a man waiting on foot near the banks waved at the President, thumbing a ride across. Jefferson happily gave him a lift.

Upon reaching dry ground on the other side of the roiling waters, one of the men asked the hitchhiker, "Tell me, why did you select the President of the United States to carry you across the river?"

Incredulous he said, "I didn’t know he was the President! All I know is that on some faces is written the answer ‘NO’ and on some the answer ‘YES’.”

Faces. When faces were given out, no one got to pick their own. Face-scapes are totally God’s choice, but the human wearer gets to do the cultivating, and smiles and grimaces make laugh and scowl tracks. With 98 muscles, faces reflect emotions, what we’re thinking and how we’re feeling -- anger, sadness, worry, fun, pain, disappointment, eagerness, fright, boredom or surprise.

Some folk have face blindness called prosopagnosia, from the Greek words “face” and “non-knowledge.” After a severe brain injury, a patient may not recognize family members. The medical profession has identified similar congenital disorders. Folk with face blindness recognize others through voice or characteristics, but their disability makes them unable to differentiate humans by facial features.

Most of us learn to “read” faces. In the Bible book of 1 Samuel, Abigail is described as having a pleasant face even though married to wicked Nabal, “[T]he woman was of good understanding, and of a beautiful countenance: but the man was churlish and evil in his doings” (1 Samuel 25:3 NAS).

God’s countenance (presence) is frequently mentioned the Bible. In Psalm 89, God’s righteousness, justice, ever present love and faithfulness are praised. The psalmist then says people who know the joy of the Lord get to walk “in the light” of his “countenance” (vs. 15).

This welcoming presence is seen when Jesus walked through Samaria. He stopped at a well to rest, and a Samaritan woman arrived to draw out water. In that era, men didn’t speak to women in public, especially Samaritans, but Jesus spoke to her and asked her for a drink. His receptive manner caused the woman to sing his praises and introduce Jesus to fellow villagers.

Countenance and demeanor “say” a lot. As Thomas Jefferson’s contemporary said, some faces say “No” and some say “Yes.” Wouldn’t it be nice, if disciples of Jesus could truly reflect the countenance of God?

A Christian’s face is like a doormat — in some way it ought to say, “Welcome.” What’s on your face?

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