A Smile and Bitten Ear
I was fully expecting to see bright smiling faces on the first Sunday after my return from being in the U.S. for a month. What I would have never expected is seeing Sergio’s smiling face while having a piece of his left ear bitten off. The combination of the human-mouth-sized chunk of his ear missing and his ear-to-ear grin was quite counterintuitive.
Sergio is one of our friends from church. He is one of the most faithful ushers you’ll find. He’s a big man who gives bear hugs and brings a lot of life to our church. A couple of weeks back, as he stepped in to defend a young gal who was being assaulted, he had his ear bitten off by one of the thieves.
But he was smiling… And yet his ear was missing…. But… he was smiling.
When I asked him what had happened he responded, “Oh pastor, that’s in the past now. All is okay. I have Jesus, so what can anyone take from me.”
I realize that what he said has the potential to sound like typical over-spiritualized Christianese that one hears in church lobbies. The kind of things said to infuse small talk with god-talk… BUT he was missing part of his ear! So his words had quite a different ring to them. They did not sound rehearsed, canned, nor hollow. Instead, they sounded very much like the words he clung to as he made his way to the hospital bleeding and disoriented.
I keep thinking about Sergio’s ear, because this last week has been pretty tough for me. I wasn’t prepared for re-entry into life here in Peru. It’s felt like jumping into a moss-covered swamp when I was expecting to land on solid turf. It’s been a mix of small annoyances, big church issues, things breaking down, and the stuff of life that makes you just want to roll over and go back to bed, all strung together with perfect timing.
But I keep thinking about Sergio missing part of his ear, and the fact that he smiles. I have both of my ears and it’s been a week where I’ve had trouble grinning.
I know this may all seem like a clever way for me to minimize legitimate issues to trick my brain into snapping out of a funk and moving on. But isn’t that what inspiration does? Does it not put a new perspective on our current situation in light of something else?
Sergio’s smile from this past Sunday has inspired me. It has inspired me to make little out of the funk, and make much of what lies on the inside of me. The life of Christ.
“All that is in the past now. All is okay. I have Jesus, so what can anyone take from me.”
So now I’m choosing to smile.
“And I’m going to keep that celebration going because I know how it’s going to turn out. Through your faithful prayers and the generous response of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, everything he wants to do in and through me will be done. I can hardly wait to continue on my course. I don’t expect to be embarrassed in the least. On the contrary, everything happening to me in this jail only serves to make Christ more accurately known, regardless of whether I live or die. They didn’t shut me up; they gave me a pulpit! Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.” – Paul in Phillippians 1:20-23 (MSG)