I was thinking…
I rode a jeepney today. That’s certainly nothing to smile about. Slow, crowded public transportation. Squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder, hip-to-hip and thigh-to-thigh with total strangers. The roof too low, so my neck was bent over. Polluted air, stifling hot, swirling around us. I was on my way to the largest mall in Asia to get online and to check the stores there for a fancy shirt to wear to my daughter’s upcoming wedding. Thinking of her made me smile.
Next me on the jeep was a young woman with a baby on her lap. I expected to smile as I glanced at her child. (I’m a little more into babies now that I have a grandson, you see.) As my eyes landed on her son I saw that he had a terribly disfigured face. Hare lip and deformed nose, pointy teeth sticking out in all the wrong directions. Even more startling as he was nibbling on a sticky rice treat without an upper lip. I looked away quickly, trying to hide my reaction, my smile fading immediately.
I felt terrible, but I was unable engage normally with the little guy. I felt ashamed and shallow. I knew it was only too obvious that my reaction was to look away quickly. I smiled to myself, but only to remember how my daughter and her friends wore Billy Bob teeth at a mall once and watched how guys would check out the cute young girls from behind or from the side and then look away quickly when they saw the teeth. That was funny, but temporary. Those teeth could be removed and the girls were beautiful again. Then I thought of the young mother beside me. What must it be like for everyone to turn away from your child, trying to hide their revulsion? And for that baby, how would life be growing up and having everyone avoid making eye contact with you, looking horrified, and never smiling at you unless they were cruelly laughing at you? I though of how everyone smiles at my grandson and talks sweetly to him, telling him he’s cute, making him smile back. But who would ever make that boy on the jeepney smile?
Looking down at my shuffling feet, I thought of Operation Smile and other charities that do surgeries here for free to repair hare lips and cleft palates and I gained a whole new insight into what it must mean for someone like that young mother and her child. It would not merely alter this child’s appearance by putting a smile on his face surgically. It would completely change who he was. He would become a completely different person. It would change how everyone interacted with him. It would put joy and confidence in his heart by making others smile at him. I quietly prayed that someday that transformation might become reality for the little guy.
A little later, over lunch I thought of how God views us who are now in Christ. We were sinful and God cannot look upon sin with pleasure. He cannot smile upon it. But at great cost to himself, he undertook a solution for the ugliness of our sin. When he looks at us now, he doesn’t see our original deformity. He sees the perfection of Christ and he smiles upon us with great pleasure.
That made me smile.