In a recent snippet of writing from the famous anthropologist Margaret Mead I read that when asked what she saw to be the first sign of “civilization in a culture” her answer did not point to the first signs of agriculture, tools, or even dwelling places but rather the discovery of a skeleton with a healed broken leg(femur/thigh bone). As she went on to explain in the animal kingdom a broken leg is almost certainly a death sentence - given that the thus injured animal could neither defend itself from predators nor get itself to food or water. And so does almost certainly perish.
However.. the evidence that a human being lived long enough to have their leg heal meant.. “
someone has taken time to stay with the
one who fell, has bound up the wound, has carried the person to safety and has tended the person
through recovery. Helping someone else through difficulty is where civilization starts.”
In the church we talk a great deal about “SIN” and the inherent selfishness that seems to afflict
us. And indeed, as uncomfortable and hard as it is to do so, there is something important about
remembering our flaws.. admitting the things that get in the way of our being our best selves.. and
facing “head on” the things we need struggle against.
It is, on the other hand, just as important (as I think Mead is pointing out) to also just as
intentionally remember the incredible capacity we have (even as flawed human creatures) to do
good.. to care for each other.. to step in with compassion.. step up to defend each other.. and step
forward with a willing heart to help one another. In fact.. as easy as it becomes some days to
presume we are too broken or weak or selfish to be of any use to anyone.. that is a cop out!!!!
That is an abdication of the great calling we all share from God & in Christ.. to be more than our
limitations.. to rise above our faults. And yes be it seen in the incredible tenderness of a parent
caring for their child.. a friend stepping out of the shadows to come to someone in tears.. or even in
the simple humility of a person stepping aside to allow someone else ahead of them in line who
needs that thing more than they do.. this is what love looks like when it takes on flesh. Whether it be
in someone giving up something precious to them, to allow that other person receive what they need..
or be it in a person finally getting off their (proverbial) “butt” to advocate for & stand up with those who
deserve our commitment to justice.. such is what it looks like to be (not just “civilized” but even more
simply...) “the unique creatures/people God created us to be.”
From the very beginning God proclaimed that “it is not good for us to be alone”. And in the gift
of creating another human for us to be in community & relationship with God invited us to be special
among the creatures – God’s children - reflecting the very image of God.. people who love and care
for one another.
This summer as you pause to reflect on the year of 2022 now half over.. maybe take stock in
what you have done to reflect the image of love that is God in you. Celebrate & be grateful for what
you have been moved to be. But then also/maybe take a few minutes to think about the new ways
you can be even so a bit MORE loving and peace/justice bearing folks in the days ahead. Think of a
few very specific things YOU can take on.. YOU can do.. YOU can enflesh in your living. And then..
well then.. get at it!!!!
Hope you are having a RE-creative & blessed summer. Be well.. be safe.. BE HOPE!!!
- Pastor Stewart Miller, August 10/22