Wednesday, May 28, 2008

lipstick smudges and humanity

Putting on lipstick is something I rarely do. I am more of a lip gloss girl...I toss it in my purse and put it on at stoplights. But lipstick? Not so much. I wore some for a wedding recently, and the slick berry pigment slid on, reminding me why I dislike it so much. It's thick and sticky, and every sip of water tastes slightly waxy. But there's something about lipstick that reminds me, even amid wax-flavored sips, that I am a girl. There's something feminine, even romantic about old-fashioned red lipstick. Rob Bell reminded me of this when he talks about the experience of Colonel Gonin's experience in the Bergen Belsen concentration camps in WWII. The colonel remembers "It was shortly after that the British Red Cross arrived that a very large quantity of lipstick arrived. It was not at all what we wanted. We were screaming for hundreds and hundreds of other things...I dont know who asked for lipstick. I wish so much that I could discover who did it, it was the action of sheer genius, sheer unadulterated brilliance. I believe nothing did more for these internees than the lipstick. Women lay in bed with no sheets but with red scarlet lips. You saw them wandering around with nothing but a blanket, but with scarlet lips. I saw a woman dead on a table, and she was clutching a piece of red lipstick. At last, someone had done something to make them individuals. They were no longer merely the number tattooed on their arm. The lipstick gave them back their humanity. "

We don't think of these things unless we read about it. I wasn't in Bergen Belsen, I cant imagine the suffering that took place in those walls. But lipstick, I can envision. I can imagine being a girl in that camp, and sliding on that scarlet lipstick. I can imagine the dignity given back to the girls who had been stripped of their femininity. Isn't it funny how lipstick can be about something else? It wasnt about the lipstick. It was about the dignity wrapped up in that little tube of scarlet makeup. I think thats what life is sometimes. Its about loving people, through things that arent even about that. Sometimes I have coffee with friends, at starbucks.

It's not about the coffee.

It's about the humanity wrapped up in that tiny mocha. God uses things to show's not about that. It's always about love. It's ALWAYS ABOUT THAT. Rob Bell calls it "bringing heaven crashing into earth." He says "I have a new hero. Her name is Lil and she is in her late fifties. Early in their marriage, her and her husband decided they would adopt. As they became familiar with the foster care system, they found kids nobody wanted. So they asked for the kids with the most pronounced disabilities, the most traumatic histories. So they have raised over twenty children. When Lil got to this point, she reached down and patted her daughter and said 'this is Crystal. She is 27 years old, but will be about six months old for the rest of her life. She cant walk or talk or move or do anything by herself. She will be like this forever. And I love her so much. My family cant imagine life without her. She makes everything so much better.' What is Lil doing? She is bringing heaven to earth. Instead of labels like 'invalid", 'reject', or 'invalid", Lil sees only 'human'. She has only one response. Love. It makes all the difference"."

See? It's about that. When I go to Starbucks (which, I have realized, is the stomping grounds to learn real compassion for strangers. I am pretty sure God planned it that way. We may think we are just getting a frappachino, but we are really getting a lesson in Love, Jesus style.) There is a guy there, named Downtown Dan. Im sure that Dan has been the brunt of many jokes, and many stabs at his often-funny antics. I have been the producer of such thinking, I admit. But my friend Will captured a moment a while back, a moment captured with film, that changed my thinking about Dan. It's the photo at the top of my post. Look closely, he's reading a book called "crisis".
I dont think the book was about anything really important, but its not about that.
I love that photo. It moved me to tears. Because here is the resident homeless man of Medford, reading a book called Crisis. I hope it hits you as hard as it hit me.
Who has given him his humanity back?
Who has brought heaven crashing into his hell?
Who loves him?
See, like Rob Bell points out, there are "moments when the "enemy" becomes just like me. When a soldier becomes a son. When a prostitute becomes a mother. When they become we. When those become us. When he becomes me. Moments when all the differences dividing us disappear. We are faced with the fact that we are humans. In this together. Marine. Iraqi. Orphan. Family. Pastor. Prostitute. We could be them." I'd add: Middle class college student. Homeless Man.
Them becomes We.
Lipstick hands back dignity.
A handshake to a homeless man gives him back his humanity.
Thats what Love is about.
Its' not about the coffee. or the lipstick. It's about bringing heaven crashing into earth.


Brenna said...

I love the way that you are looking at things that way. Its great! Thanks for the encouragement :)

Anne said...

Good article.
I bet you're sad that Chris,Sarah, and the kids left.:(