My wife, Lisa, and I watched “The Greatest Showman” with Hugh Jackman the other night, and OH MY WORD, it was FANTASTIC!!! So, so, so good! I cried with sorrow and joy, delighted in the music and choreography (it’s a musical), and was DEEPLY moved by its message of including and celebrating the marginalized, excluded, and shunned. Needless to say, my heart was filled to the brim with love by the end of the movie.
One of my absolute favorite songs/moments in the movie was “Come Alive”, where P.T. Barnum (Hugh’s character) sings an incredible song of affirmation with the “freaks” (like a woman with a beard, a dog-man, a midget, and more) who come to form his circus (you can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BURBlSYPmBU) In this beautiful song he notes how some “stumble through your days” with “your head hung low”, because “your skies’ a shade of grey” and they “believe that lie, that you need to hide your face.” The Truth, though, he proclaims is “you can flip the switch and brighten up your darkest day, sun is up and the color’s blinding.” Everyone can choose to “come alive, come alive”, and “ride your light, let it burn so bright.” As they conclude, after we see the glory that’s all around and within us: “Once you see it, oh you’ll never, never be the same. We’ll be the light that’s shining … Come alive, come alive … You’re electrified!”
Oh my word, just listening to the song and reading the words lights my soul up and makes me want to get up and dance! This song and way of seeing people, life, and the world brings to mind the story about Moses and the burning bush. This Jewish tale finds the Hebrew people enslaved in Egypt, and Moses (ironically, both a Hebrew and an Egyptian prince) living in exile. As he’s out and about he’s startled to notice a bush that is burning WITHOUT being consumed. Turns out, after he goes to investigate why this is happening and who might be there, it’s none other than God, so they have a super interesting conversation about God’s name, freeing the Jewish people, Moses’ insecurities, and more.
I point this out because Jewish rabbis and scholars were REALLY intrigued by the bush burning without being consumed. How was that possible? Since God speaks from the bush and tells Moses to remove his sandals, because he was on holy ground, this “fire” must be a manifestation of the glory of God, probably making it less a literal, physical blaze and more of a spiritual, divine fire. With this in mind, many concluded it wasn’t just this SINGLE bush that was “burning”, instead EVERY bush, person, animal, etc. is ABLAZE with the glory of the Divine ALL the time, it’s just that Moses’ eyes were finally opened enough to see this bigger Truth in a specific bush at a specific moment.
Interestingly, this is how things often work: Small, specific experiences open our eyes to big Truths. For instance, the pain of going through a miscarriage helped break my heart wide-open to hurt and care for the homeless, hungry, impoverished, sick, and enslaved people locally and globally. Likewise, in this blog I’m inviting us to recall a sacred moment and expand our perception to recognize sacredness, God’s indwelling presence permeates everyone and everything; ALL the “bushes” are blazing!
Really and truly choosing to see people and the world this way has been a total game changer for me. First, it leaves me in a frequent state of awe at how AMAZING God is, because each gorgeous sunset, every act of kindness, all the great hugs, any smiling face, and on-and-on is a reflection of, a signpost pointing to the even grander goodness of their divine Source. Second, seeing, looking for, and spotting this divine radiance shining through people leads me to greater kindness, care, and understanding for others.
On that topic, I think it’s fitting to land this “plane” by talking a bit about my daughter, Lara. She believes EVERYONE is AMAZING, because we’re ALL made in the image of the mind-blowingly GOOD God. Deciding to see people this way, a decision we can all make, has led her to regularly volunteer at school with disabled kids, frequently help at church in the nursery, often raise money for Christmas gifts for poor kiddos, assemble hygiene kits for homeless people to keep in her mom’s car, and so much more.
Author and president of the Seattle School of Theology and Psychology, Craig Detweiler, said: “We are God’s selfies.” We are made to reflect the Light and Love of God. Looking into the face of another person and into the mirror is perhaps the best way to see what God looks like; and I think putting a face to our Heavenly Parent both helps us love God and people more, because the more tangible and real someone becomes to us, the more we can truly care for them. With that in mind, I think the pure joy of my daughter in the above pic captures a universal Truth: Everyone and every place is ABLAZE with the glory of God. She’s a marvelous reflection of our Creator’s bliss. The more I live into and choose to see this reality, the more AMAZING life gets, the more loving I become, and more worshipful my heart grows. My hunch is the same could be true for you!
Grace and peace,