Like all good stay at home moms who are too tired once the kids go to bed to do anything profitable, I have been watching CNN for a few hours and am well steeped in all the details of Michael Jackson’s memorial service today. It has made me sad. What is clear to me is that he was an incredibly talented child, then man, who never saw himself as created in the image of God in a way that should be valued. People magazine had a progression of his looks from childhood to his death, detailing the changes he made in his own appearance through plastic surgery. My theology teaches me that the depravity within him surely contributed. But it’s clear there were a lot of depraved forces working against him as well. He had an abusive father. And he entered a self-absorbed, sensationalist, narcissistic, eat-your-own-wounded culture at an age when he had no social, self-protective coping mechanisms. The result was a “freak show” that much of the world watched, gossiped about, and disected on talk television. I thought he was a freak too. Now, I’m convicted. He wasn’t a freak. He was created in the image of God. It was our “civilized” society that loves self and hates God that projected onto him something that fed weaknesses in himself.
He is not the first African-American child I have seen that hated their image, wishing for a smaller nose and lighter skin. He is not the first child star thrust into a spotlight they were too immature to handle. He is not the first adult I’ve known with such a warped childhood that they go to innappropriate lengths to recreate the idyllic childhood they perceive they have missed. It’s just that all these things came together in his life in very public ways, and we all watched the sensational spectacle with our own innapropriate fascination.
MJ was just one of millions of people who are pained and wounded, and whose efforts to relieve their pain and wounding only created new pain and new wounds. I’m reminded that there is only one hope for dealing with such pain and wounding–it is the Man of Sorrows who is well acquainted with grief. He alone is the cure for the depravity without us that wounds us and feeds the depravity within us.
I am in the midst of reading Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, a collection of short stories from various Christian writers. I was asked to contribute a story and have enjoyed reading the stories of others. The big idea is that our wounding is like the grit of sand in the oyster shell that becomes a pearl of great price. Sometimes we wound ourselves through our stupid sinfulness. But many times, we are wounded by the very ones we should most be able to trust–spouses, parents, church family. Sometimes it’s sickness seemingly out of anyone’s control. Other times it’s a very specific, intentional act done for the very purpose of wounding the victim. Women share stories of both their wounding and God’s transformation of it in their lives. Not all of the stories spoke to me, but many really did. It was neat to hear woman after woman share how the goodness of God transcended the worst life had to offer. It’s by no means the final answer from Scripture on how to deal with abuse and wounding situations, but it is an encouraging supplementary read if you are walking that walk right now.