Everybody I know knows about Sesame Street. We have either watched it on TV for our own edification or watched this educational programming with the children in our lives. Sesame Street ranks up there with (1600) Pennsylvania Avenue, (Monopoly’s) Boardwalk and Vatican City (Pope’s residence), and maybe Yawkey Way. In fact, most children would know that Big Bird lives on Sesame Street and not have a clue to where the U.S. President or the Roman Catholic Pope reside. Most of us are also familiar with the jingle which is used to teach children to look for differences in groups of objects to increase their visual acuity and discrimination (the good kind) skills. For example, it is very helpful to be able to pick out good apples to eat and throw away the rotten ones. The song goes like this:
“One of these things are not like the others,
One of these things just doesn’t belong,
Can you guess which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish this song?”
Looking at the photo of the four females (above), what would your answer be to this song? Okay, you’re too smart. I am the only one wearing sunglasses over my eyes. Oh, that wasn’t your answer? Maybe it’s that I’m the only one with a GREEN MONSTER Boston RED SOX shirt on, so I must be the only RED SOX fan in the photo, right? No, that’s not it either? Then, what could it be? Could it be that I am the only one in the photo who looks disabled and is in a wheelchair? All these answers are correct, including the last answer: I do have cerebral palsy and I am in a wheelchair. But if that’s the biggest difference you see, you are missing out on a lot. If you conclude, from this photo, that I am the only one with physical struggles, you would be incorrect.
The photo of the four friends does not tell the whole story. From this photo, you are unable to see that one woman struggles with vertigo and acid reflux now and then, another lives with basil base arthritis and high blood pressure, and another manages life with cervical radiculopathy (pain/numbness down the arm and fingers) and bursitis in the hip. From this photo, you can’t tell which person(s) survived a first bad marriage and is now happily married or which of the four lost her first child through miscarriage. You can’t know which mom(s) have a child who have suffered a life-changing car accident and, as all good moms do, is now helping her child to cope and live a happy life.
These things I have shared are not meant to depress you, but help you realize that what we see is not the whole “picture.” Knowing the differences between apples and oranges, cold and hot, safe and unsafe is very important. But, when it comes to people, recognizing our similarities is more important than labeling people as different from us. We all have struggles, both physical and emotional; we all have pain in our lives, both physical and relational; we all are getting older and our body parts are not working as well as they used to. Most of all, we all need a Savior Who understands our deepest pain and Who can lift us up from our deepest despair. That is why Jesus came. That is why Good Friday is so GOOD and we celebrate and rejoice on Easter – RESURRECTION SUNDAY!
Isaiah 53:3-6 describes Jesus in this way: “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not. Surely He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered Him stricken by God, smitten by Him, and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus came to be one of us. He experienced the pain and suffering we experience. He knows the suffering that comes with being ridiculed and rejected. He knows what it’s like to be broken, crushed and in despair. He knows what it’s like to be tempted by the evil one (Matthew 4:1-11) If anyone know our deepest hurt and our greatest need, it’s Jesus. While He walked the earth, Jesus was still God, but He was also fully human. In reading through the Gospels, I learn that Jesus was hungry (Mark 11:12), thirsty (John 4:7), and needed sleep (Mark 4:38). In the most quoted Bible verse when one needs one in a hurry, I learn that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Jesus’ humanity is profoundly displayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, right before His suffering and death (Matthew 26:39-46, Mark 14:32-42, Luke 22:39-46). The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus as “sorrowful and troubled“ and “being overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” The Gospel of Mark records Jesus as being “deeply distressed and troubled” and His soul was “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” The Gospel of Luke says of Jesus, “And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”
Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane tells me it is okay to go to God with my questions and when I am overwhelmed with life’s troubles, because that’s what Jesus did. Having questions and being overwhelmed is not sin in and of itself. It is what we do with our questions and feelings of being overwhelmed that may result in sin. We may choose to stay angry at God for our life’s circumstances and we may even run away from God and the circumstances by using various means such as, abusing alcohol or drugs or food or people, or we can choose what Jesus chose to do. Jesus obeyed His Father’s will: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient onto death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the Name that is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).
Jesus knows exactly how it is to be one of us, because He was human in every way, except He was without sin. Being without sin, Jesus was able to do what none of us could ever do – pay for my sins and atone for the sins of all those who believe in His Name. “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (II Corinthians 5:21). Through His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead and His promise to return, Jesus has given us a new address, way better than Sesame Street or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or Boardwalk. Our new address is not of this world! Jesus said to His disciples (including us), “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
Now, for “the rest of the story” of the Photo of the Four Females: It’s really a photo of two pairs of sisters. My sister Jane is on my right (your left) and Kathy and Fran are the sisters standing behind us. We took a “road trip” to the “Bridge of Flowers,” in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, because we all enjoy flowers. We are all RED SOX fans. We are laughing in the bottom photo because the person who took the picture said, “Say YANKEE!” (It was either that or throw him over the bridge.) After visiting the “Bridge of Flowers” and the “Glacier Potholes,” we went for a wine tasting just over the border in Vermont, because we all enjoy wine. We then went to the Whately Inn, back in Massachusetts, for a birthday dinner, because it was my birthday and because we all enjoy eating. Before heading home, we went to Richardson Candy Kitchen, in South Deerfield, to buy a few treats for home, because we all like REAL chocolate. So, you see, we four have many things in common, that do not show up in a photo. Most of all, even though we are two pairs of sisters, we are four sisters in Christ (who are also of Polish ancestry)!
“Blessed is the mighty king who sits beside the weakest man
and thinks of all their similarities.”
(from the book, “The Singer”)
– Calvin Miller