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  • Writer's pictureJosiah Travis

Worth Beyond Measure

Updated: Aug 26, 2018

Recently I was stopped at a stop sign near our home. School had just let out. As I came to a stop, a young man, perhaps in 8th grade, approached the intersection to cross the street in front of me. Our eyes met ever so briefly. Immediately I was struck by his awkwardness. He was slightly overweight, with clothes that didn't quite fit right. His pants were too small and worn too high on his husky frame. His shirt was tucked in which just added to the fashion fopaux.

He carried himself as one who was not accustomed to fitting in: shoulders rounded forward, gaze directed toward the side walk. The eye contact we shared was ever so brief, and when he crossed the stress in front of me, he ran, not athletically but awkwardly, hustling across the street, as if to apologize for the inconvenience he may have caused me. As he shuffled down the sidewalk away from me I stopped to look after him. I was so struck by this young man. My heart was suddenly and unexpectedly flooded with love for him.

I wish I could better articulate all that went on inside me during the next few moments. There was love, but also a sudden and powerful awareness of his incalculable worth as a precious human being, a beautiful and amazing human being. I wanted to shout after him and tell him all the things I imagine he rarely heard. "You're amazing! Do you know how valuable you are? You have such worth! Your Father in heaven thinks you're amazing!!"

Along with love, and a sense of this young man's worth, I also had this sudden sadness, an awareness of the world we live in and the unkindness that this young man surely has experienced. Who celebrates him? Who sees his beauty and his worth? He doesn't fit into the narrow mold our society uses to define attractiveness, successfulness, and ultimately value. My eyes were suddenly opened to this young man's worth, his beauty, and his significance in the eyes of his Maker but I was aware of the fact that many others never had this privilege. So often we define beauty in very narrow categories fed to us by a critical society.

This picture was shot in Costa Rica on a mission trip that I led there. A group from my church spent a day with this young girl and many other children. I sensed such sadness in her eyes that day, but toward the end of the day (when I snapped this shot) some of that sadness had faded. I love the beauty in her eyes and the crumbs on her face as she shows off the "masterpiece" she created.

I suddenly felt a sadness that many people, people like me, would miss what I had just seen in this young man. It wasn't a sadness for him, as if to pity him. It was a sadness for us, a sadness for all of us who are so unschooled in the ways of seeing and appreciating beauty.

I have become captivated by the life of Jesus Christ as revealed in the New Testament Scriptures. He was a man uniquely skilled at seeing and valuing those who did not fit into society's parameters for beauty and worth. He regularly reached out and touched lepers, people covered with ugly sores and cast out from society (Luke 8:1-4). Jesus saw these people. He placed his hands on them. He acknowledged their humanity and restored their beauty. Jesus regularly ate with tax collectors and other "disreputable sinners" (Matt. 9:10). By eating with people like these on many occasions he honored them. He saw beyond exteriors and valued something intrinsic within each human being he encountered.

What was Jesus seeing? What was he honoring? He was seeing and honoring the image of his Father! In Genesis 1:27 we read that human beings are made in God's image. I believe this! We were made to reflect the divine beauty of a Creator, and we do! Despite the fact that this original beauty has been terribly marred, and the image of God is often barely visible within us--shrouded so often by evil and selfishness--Jesus is able to look at that which many would call ugly, worthless, undesirable, and see the original imprint of the divine nature beneath all this. He sees something he values; he sees something he created.

This strikes me on two levels. First, don't you want to be more like Jesus, able to see the intrinsic worth that is found in all human beings? What if we actually had eyes to see beauty and had hearts that could love that which does not immediately come across as lovely? This is an issue of sight. Our world has fed us a narrative about beauty and value and I think it hinders is from seeing so much beauty and value. Perhaps we need to see with new eyes, how about with his eyes?

Second, you might be one who needs to be reminded--or maybe told for the first time--that you have beauty and worth because you are one who is stamped with with the divine nature. Yes, I understand as you probably do, that stamp has been smudged, marred, damaged, and hidden. I think we all feel that reality. Many of us are our own worst critics. We see our flaws. There are things about our personality, our physical appearance, and perhaps events from our past that cause us to feel ashamed. Yet I do not believe that the shattered exteriors of our lives need to define us. They don't have to have the final word.

In Luke 19:10 Jesus says, "For the son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." He came to seek out, find, save, and restore. He spoke these words after just having honored a man named Zacchaeus who did not deserve the honor at all. Zacchaeus was rejected by society because he extorted from and preyed upon the poor. But Jesus helped Zacchaeus remember who he was--to remember the divine seed inside-- and it brought about a great heart and life change in this man. Jesus sought him out and brought him back into connection with his heavenly Father, with his true self, and with the broader community. He was "saved"because of what Jesus did.

This is my personal story too. I am on a journey to become the person that God always intended me to be. A big part of this journey is seeing myself and others through the eyes of Jesus. May we all receive from him the gift of new sight today.  


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