I was in my late twenties, sitting in a church pew, clutching my (then) new husband’s hand, tears streaming down my face, I listened to my Mother and Uncles eulogize my Grandfather.
A story was told of a time when they had asked my Grandfather if he wished he was taller. This was a question that caught me off guard as I never thought of my Grandfather as short; he always seemed larger than life to me. When they asked him how tall he wished he was, his response, “As tall as Jesus.”
Gasps were audible throughout the church. The magnitude of the statement just uttered caused spontaneous inhalations of incensed church air. We Catholic’s are good at acting astonished.
My uncles, being the inquisitive bunch that they were (and still are), tried to determine the true height of Jesus through research and general “asking around” but never found a definitive answer. Finally, they went back, feeling discouraged and explained that they weren’t able to figure it out and looked to my Grandfather to solve the puzzle. He laughed a little and said that he didn’t know either but that was the point. Jesus was as tall as he needed to be.
Later I pondered that statement and what he meant by it. I think all of us can come up with our own interpretation but for me it is not something you can ever gage on a ruler. It’s how you live your life, what measures you take to lighten someone else’s load. It’s being selfless and kind and forgiving when you don’t really feel like it.
Being as tall as Jesus requires incredible effort and sacrifice. It’s standing up for those who cannot stand on their own. It is not judging those who don’t look like you or live like you or worship like you. It’s opening your arms to those who
are falling and failing and losing and hurting and, in some cases, dying and catching them. Embracing them. Loving them.
Because He did that … and does that for you.
Being as tall as Jesus is living His example and following the command that He gave us before leaving this earth…
LOVE ONE ANOTHER
Notice that there were no other words after that statement. Jesus didn’t say “love one another only if they are like you.” This statement transcends all races and religions, all life choices, all differences.
We, of course, have taken a simple phrase and added so many “only if’s” to fit what makes US comfortable.
I like to think that I get close, sometimes, to being as tall as Jesus but when I think I’m almost there, I shrink again. I lose my temper and yell at the kids (usually right before we leave for church). I fall into a gossip session with friends. I criticize my husband. I like to think that I don’t judge, that I have outgrown that but the reality of it all is that I do. I judge. And it is not my job to do so. There is only one Judge and that’s God. He took that burden off of me long ago so I could go forward with my life and love and accept others as they are.
So, I guess you could say that I am a work in progress. I’m still growing and learning and trying to do my best to be a good person to my family, to my friends and to strangers.
And I really need to work on being a little better to myself.
Because, you see, I’m not so good to me and that’s where it begins. I beat myself up and try to make myself something that I am not most of the time. I feel like I don’t measure up to my own expectations which seem to matter more than others these days. My own internal battle can take up so much time and energy that I forget that I have a life outside of myself to live and then I feel guilty about that too.
What do you do when your head and your heart are continually at battle? Where one day you see that you are really doing great, you are positive and happy and feel ready to take on the day and then the kids wake up and that goes south and you are trying to keep your voice down but they aren’t listening. And this one doesn’t like his breakfast and the other won’t wear the shirt you put out and the snacks you bought are stupid. You’ve been kicked down so many times in a matter of minutes that all of your happy, positive “seize the day” thoughts are a million miles away. I could tell you that you have a choice to either break down or over come and if you choose the latter you will know that you have grown and prospered…and then you will want to come over and smack me, letting me know that in reality, however inspiring, is not what you need right now. You need Super Nanny and unless some producers have been scoping out your house that’s not going to happen.
And you will read this and say, “Yes, I want to be as tall as Jesus but I also want to have peace in my house and dinner ready and laundry folded when I come home.Stop telling me all this kumbaya stuff and give me some real answers.”
Sorry friends, I got nothing. Because I’m there too.
I know that my grandfather didn’t get it right all of the time but I do know that he figured out if you try, and you get it right some of the time you are on the right path. God sees our hearts, He knows our intentions. He’s there to meet us right where we are and sometimes that’s sitting on a bathroom floor, with your head in your hands, crying and desperate for answers to questions that you don’t know how to ask.
In that time of complete helplessness you succumb to the reality that you are weak and all of the show that you put on during the day is just that, a show. It’s you, trying to prove how strong and perfect and flawless you are, when in reality, on the inside you’re sitting on the floor of your bathroom wondering what in the world you are doing. You never thought it would be so hard to try to be so good, so flawless. And the reason it’s hard is because you’re living a lie and, truth be told, so are a lot of others because (shockingly enough) nobody’s perfect. But we still go around pretending we are because no one has the nerve to stand up and let people know that it’s ok if you’re not beautiful today, that if you have a grey hair (gasp) or even a few wrinkles that’s ok too.
If your kids are running you ragged and not listening and being disrespectful and got a bad grade, I get it. I’m there too. If things are a little tight for you this week, this month, this year, I get it. Lunch is on me.
We’ve all been there in some shape or form. We’ve all been crying from the inside, yelling out “is it just me? Am I the only one who is going through this right now? Why is everyone else so happy and smiley and I am crumbling inside?” Chances are someone else is crumbling too.
So how do we stand tall? How do we become the people we need to be in order to show our children the people that they need to be? We tear off our masks and let people see us as we are, right where we are. For better or worse as the case may be.
We live in a society that Photo Shops lives so that they appear to be glossy and colorful when, in reality, they are bumpy and ragged and blurred. It’s our job to realize that life is so much more that the perfect picture projected because we are living it too and know that it is filled with hard choices and messy experiences and the ever-present dust in the corners.
I think when Jesus told us to love one another he also meant give each other a break. Don’t set your expectations so high that you can never meet them because if you can’t, chances are neither can anyone else. Love one another with reckless abandon, choosing people’s feelings over status and others perceptions of you. Will you fall short? Yes. Will you fail? Yes. Will others talk behind your back? Probably. But maybe, just maybe you will do the unthinkable. You will change someone’s life and inspire others to do the same.
Sure that’s a tall order. But so is trying to be as tall as Jesus…and I’m working on it. Growing and shrinking and growing again. It’s a process and I’m sticking to it.
There is no way to know how tall Jesus really was, you can look in the history book and listen to the scholars but they don’t know for sure either. And maybe it’s supposed to be that way. As I see it He had many different heights. He sat down to speak with the lame and he knelt to listen to the children and he reached up to grab the hand of a man named Zaccheus. Jesus met people where they were.
Perhaps we should do the same, meet people where they are. It seems like a lot less work than meeting them where we think they should be.