What We’re Reflecting
By Heidi Doggett
At first I didn’t know what to think of her–this visitor who, when asked what we could do to get inactive members to come to church, stood up to make a long comment on the importance of smiling at everyone. Her words rolled forth; casual, warm, and unhurried. Something you could wrap yourself in. And her smile, well-worn into the creases around her eyes and mouth, bore out her words with sincerity.
I’ve experienced love offered as advance payment; usually from people at church who I can’t even name. Maybe, they think, if I insert enough smiles and handshakes and cookies, I’ll get a toy surprise in return. And it will be filled with socially acceptable sweetness and regular church activity.
This woman saw love as an element, like air, to be given without qualification and received as a necessity. The more I listened, the more I could see it pulsing inside her, shedding true light on whoever she saw. I marveled.
When the teacher asked what we could do to set a good Gospel example for people outside the church, the answers generally came as follows:
1) Dress appropriately.
2) Don’t drink or smoke.
3) Don’t watch R-rated movies.
Now, I’m no great scholar, but I know that the Mormon church claims Christ as its head, and I know that the only time Christ mentions dress in the scriptures, he isn’t preaching the exactness of hemline as an eternal doctrine.
The beauty of Jesus’ life and teachings is not found in a checklist. I’ve scoured his teachings for this chart people seem to be using that illustrates what righteousness looks like, and what it eats and drinks, how it decorates its house and what hobbies it should choose. For all Christ’s trouble, this is what defines us? A righteous shave, and a righteous orange juice with our bacon and eggs when the guy next to us is ordering coffee? I asked the teacher whether we shouldn’t live God’s love instead of living a checklist. Love for love’s sake, and let that speak for us naturally in a way that lists can’t.
People shouldn’t need a yardstick to measure our devotion to Christ and his teachings.
What do you think of when you see a woman walking down the street in a knee length skirt? I don’t know about you, but I tend to think of a woman in a knee length skirt. And a G-rated cartoon doesn’t inspire me to think of anything but G-rated cartoons. A person who doesn’t have tattoos or isn’t smoking has about the same effect. But what about a person who is living the things Christ actually taught, like the Hawaiian lady visiting that Sunday?
She came to me after class and thanked me for commenting. She told me that I was a person with truth in my heart; me, a cynical, pants-wearing black sheep. She took my head between her hands, soft with age, and touched her forehead to mine. Her wavy hair brushed my cheek, her warmth flowed around me, and tears burned my eyes. This woman loved me. She loved the good in me, and the good was all that mattered to her. In this moment I gained a greater understanding of what it might be like to be touched by Christ, and now I want to share that touch.
I look at a woman in a knee length skirt, and I am reminded of nothing but what I see before me.
When I looked at this woman, I could see the Son of God reflected in her love.