Earlier this spring, Isaiah Fish and I led a 5-week study based on Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. The story, set in the fictitious 1930’s small town of Maycomb, Alabama, went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and is still considered a classic in American literature.
Our study was based on the story’s primary characters: Atticus Finch, his daughter Scout, Tom Robinson, and Boo Radley; and, as much as anything, it was an invitation to have conversations around an often difficult but necessary topic – race in America, then and now.
In an attempt to explain such matters to his young daughter, Atticus responded, “You never really understand a person until you climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it.”
The class and I spent a lot of time talking about the concept of walking around in someone else’s skin. Our conversations were rich; spoken in safety with holy listening. In the end, we concluded the near impossibility of fully understanding what it is like to experience life from another’s perspective; however, we also recognized the importance of intentionally trying to make the effort if we are committed to loving our neighbors as ourselves.
We remember that God’s greatest expression of God’s self was to put on skin and walk around as a human being in order to identify with us. In Jesus Christ, we have experienced God fully alive in flesh, as we are called to also see one another.
My guess is that you will encounter many people today from all walks of life: people of varying races, ages, nationalities, religions, political affiliations, sexual orientations, soci-economic status; even people with physical, mental, and emotional challenges and job responsibilities, etc. Some aspects of themselves will be easily recognizable, while others not so much. How humbling might it be to let our imaginations run wild for just a little while and to try to imagine ourselves walking around in their skin? I’m guessing that we will all be the better for it.
Grace and peace,