No one has ever accused me of being sporty. So when I walked out to the car to go cross-country skiing, looking a bit like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man, I was surprised by my husband’s reaction. The first question: “Are you really going to wear that?”
I am certain that I never grew beyond 13 years old because I gave him the exact same answer that I used to give my mom, “No, I’m just going to wear it into the middle of the street where I will strip down and change into something more acceptable.”
Sarcasm is always so helpful in relationships. So, he stopped asking questions and commented that I didn’t look very sporty.
It was 3 degrees outside — sporty was not on my mind. I wanted to be warm. The fact that my multiple puffy layers gave me extra bounce if I fell was a bonus. I don’t care what I look like, and I might be hot for the last 10 minutes, but at least I won’t be cold for the first 50.
But he was right, I didn’t look sporty — but looks can be deceiving. I can keep up with the best of them, even with 20 pounds of down surrounding me. No one is going to mistake me for a professional skier, but I am a faithful skier, and that should be worth something.
That’s what I try to carry over into my relationships with others and with God. Looks can be deceiving, and faithfulness is worth something.
I realized recently that I tend to dismiss good-looking folks. I gravitate toward those who have to depend more on personality to get by in life (hopefully none of my close friends will take this personally). Good-looking people always intimidate me a bit, probably because it makes me realize that my clothes don’t match and I forgot to brush my hair. I’ve been blessed throughout my ministry with spectacular conversations and friendships with all kinds of quirky folks who might be disregarded by others, but only recently have I learned to pay attention to those who look so together and lovely. They too have stories, hearts and personalities.
Looks can be deceiving. I know that is true not only with people, but also with my faith. We are preparing, in the Christian community, for the celebration of the Holy Triduum. These are the great three days where the world gets turned upside-down. On Maundy Thursday (April 17) we will gather to remember Jesus, the master, bending to wash his disciples’ feet and offering them a meal where he promises to be present with them. On Good Friday (April 18), we will remember the power of evil, hate and brutality when we tell the story of Jesus on the cross. And on Easter (April 20), we will sing of hope in the midst of despair, life in the midst of death.
We will remind one another that looks can be deceiving. There may be times that feel dark and despairing, but we believe that God is present, even in those times, working new life and hope. So, just like my skiing, I keep at it. When I fail and look like a fool, I keep risking and practicing. When I doubt or despair, I keep going through the motions and God has remained faithful to me. When people who are sporty and have it together pass me and sneer, I try to respond like my 13-year-old self, only on the inside and smile and remind myself that looks can be deceiving.
• Tari Stage-Harvey is pastor of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church.