I have cleaned a nose at least fifteen times today. My young son has a cold, which has produced a fountain of mucus pouring from his nostrils to rival Niagara Falls.
Our ritual is established. He brings a tissue. I wipe his nose…twice. He takes the crumpled Kleenex from my hand and disposes of it in the trash.
I don’t mind really (aside from the constant hand-washing this causes me to need).
What is funny to me is that Rafael does not need me to wipe his nose. He is perfectly capable to do it himself. He is also capable of putting on his own shoes and coat, brushing his teeth, and carrying around his own Paw Patrol toys. Yet, he persistently asks me to do all of these actions for him.
He is asking for my attention. My help. My notice of his need.
But I don’t want to wipe a snotty nose.
It’s messy. And gross. And requires something more of me than I want to willingly give.
The stories of Jesus in Scripture touching lepers especially move me. He would reach out to touch them – the untouchable, the outcast, the revolting.
Every time I put on my dress clothes and go to work in a well-lit, open office space with a padded chair…every time I show up at church on a Sunday to worship with air-conditioning or heat, while lights and music grab my attention…every time I sip my over-priced coffee drink from the polished coffee shop on the street corner of my middle-class, well-off, safe neighborhood….
I wonder if I’m far from the Gospel.
I wonder if I’m the rich man from Jesus’ parables. The fool from Proverbs. The Pharisee out front of the synagogue.
The snotty noses poke at me.
The people around my abundant life who keep showing up around me, so God can remind me what grace looks like. So I have the chance to get my hands dirty. So I don’t become complacent in all the blessings.
Like the home-bound ladies who need me to deliver them books every month and sometimes complain to me about things I can’t control.
Like the families who ask for prayer on the GroupMe app that my life group uses, sharing stories of need and sickness and heartbreak, wanting me to petition Heaven on their behalf.
Like the homeless population in Old Town, Arvada, close to where I live, who need my winter coats way more than I do, who need someone to give out of their abundance again and again.
Like the friends around me who need to be listened to, prayed for, hugged on, believed in.
Life is beautiful and hard. Short and fun.
It’s also messy.
God never intended us to live in a vacuum of existence. He gave Eve to Adam, Aaron to Moses, Bartholomew to Paul. As the great characters of history needed partners, and community, so do we. We might think it makes life more complicated or annoying, but if that is all we see, then we are missing the point.
As 2018 wraps up, I look back at my own snotty nose and how many times I poked it into the lives of people around me, exposing my need, expressing vulnerability.
The grace that I received has been beyond measure.
That’s the beauty of not being alone. We lean into one another. We stretch our arms around each other in love and acceptance. We put action to our otherwise meaningless words about the Gospel.
It’s all the beauty and the mess that, as Rainer Rilke puts in, “reconciles the ill-matched threads” of each life and turns it into a priceless masterpiece.
I’m about 114 Kleenex down.
114 hugs accompanied every wipe.
It’s amazing…the truth revealed to me….by the snot running down a nose.