A Change of Perspective, the Suffering Servant, and Isaiah 53:3-5

30 01 2014

Man_Made_in_the_Image_of_God

I’ve always struggled with the concept that somehow I’m “made in the image of God.”  Why would God look like someone like me?  Why would God put someone like me in a world where it seems I have no place?  I still wonder why God put me in so many places where I am so ill-equipped and knowing that I am missing pieces.  The only answer I can seem to come up with is that I have so many missing pieces because God Himself means to fill in the spaces I don’t have.

 The apostle Paul (a guy who knew a lot about being unpopular with people,) said,

“We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28 (NRSV)

In most social situations and in business, I have learned what to say, when to say it, (though dealing with non-verbals is still rather vexing and confusing to me) and when not to say anything.  Age and time have helped me develop a workable façade, but I know all too well how shallow and brittle and full of missing pieces that façade can be.  It’s not natural for me to deal with people, and for me social situations are always energy-draining.

I can pass for “normal,” in most instances, but only with considerable effort,  because I have to constantly and consciously calculate my responses in social situations.  Most people do that on a sort of auto-pilot.  I don’t dare to.  Otherwise I would likely ignore the people around me, or just stand and stare at them.  Worse yet, I might actually share what’s on my mind without considering whether or not my observations are polite or kind.  Accurate assessments are not always merciful, and sometimes the truth can get you pounded.  I got into a lot of trouble with being “socially inappropriate” as a kid.  Mom was always either backhanding me for what she perceived to be snide comments, dirty looks, or for staring.  So much for calling things as I saw them.  The world wasn’t kind to me.  My reality was harsh, and my instinct was to be truthful about it.

I don’t mind standing off and watching the wheels go ’round and ’round (to borrow a phrase from John Lennon) at all.  If I were independently wealthy I probably would do exactly that- wander about and observe and stare.  The problem is that to survive in this world, one has to interact with others.  It helps if those interactions are positive ones.

damocles

When I was growing up, I lived with the specter of failure dangling over my head like the Sword of Damocles.  I had the concept of noblesse oblige pounded into my head.  I was the third, disappointing and defective female child, so I had to do something to make up for that, and for costing money and taking up valuable oxygen.  I had certain abilities such as early reading, (hyperlexia can be quite entertaining for one’s parents’ friends) but I also had profound motor, emotional, and psychological disabilities as well as fragile physical health.  It didn’t help that I was also exposed to the theology of “God-Only-Loves-You-When-You-Don’t-Screw-Up,” which can be summed up as a sort of undue emphasis on some of the more dubious tenets of Catholic theology.  I couldn’t do enough penance.  I couldn’t be good enough.  I believed I was not good enough for my family, and certainly not good enough for God.

hair shirt

I believe that it is important for Christians to become familiar with the image of Jesus as the Suffering Servant- first as a counter to the distasteful and erroneous theologies of “God-As-Santa-Claus” or “Believe-and-Receive!”

Jesus, God, Emmanuel, is literally God With Us– not a heavenly Enforcer who keeps track of every sin and misstep, not an ethereal Santa Claus who gives us what we want if only we “believe and receive,” but the One Who walks where we walk, Who weeps when we weep, and Who shares our suffering as well as our joy.

The image of Jesus as the Suffering Servant is also a powerful contradictory to the “Put-On-Your-Hair-Shirt-and-Earn-Your-Way-to-God’s-Love” mindset.

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces.  He was despised, and we held him of no account. Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we accounted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.” Isaiah 53:3-5 (NRSV)

HE was wounded for my transgressions.

HE was crushed for my iniquities.

HE took the punishment for my healing.

HE fills in the missing pieces.

HE makes me “good enough.”

I can’t redeem myself.  This is the whole point: Jesus already did what I can’t.

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