It had all the makings of a perfect night.
A warm September evening blanketed by the soft glow of a setting sun. Soft breeze, clear sky dotted with stars, a visit with two friends. It was dinnertime and, rather than drive, we decided to walk to an intimate, unpretentious diner only a few blocks away. Entirely comfortable with the setting and each other, we alternated between conversation and silence, savoring both.
I remember thinking how idyllic the moment, and how thankful I was to experience it. Then, in the middle of my reflection, we noticed three people making their way toward us. Two adults and a small girl, no more than four years old. It took only moments to recognize their faces, old friends I hadn’t seen in years.
Over the next minutes, the adults chatted on the side of the city street. But I couldn’t resist the four-year-old angel standing with her mom and dad. Big brown eyes, heart-shaped lips, the dress of a princess. And so I bent down and initiated a conversation.
Only I didn’t expect her question in return:
“Why do you talk funny?”
She asked it in innocence. It was merely a curious question in response to obvious facts. I spoke with a lisp, struggled with my words. Although I was understandable, I sounded different. And so she asked me about it.
But with her question, I felt all the embarrassment and shame I’d tried to bury in the months before. A third diagnosis of cancer and resulting radical surgery and treatment had permanently altered the way I spoke.
In fact, it was a near miracle I could eat, drink, swallow and talk at all. I’d worked hard to regain some sort of function, to hide my flaws. And yet her question forced me to face the fact that I’d never be “normal” again. And the hot truth of that felt like a sharp stab of pain.
We don’t want to be different, you and I. We work hard to hide our inadequacies, cover our disabilities, minimize our poverties. We want to display strength, beauty and talents. Not weaknesses, insufficiencies and lack. And so we hide the humble parts of ourselves and do our best to present only those things that make us proud.
The problem is, sooner or later, we cross someone on the street who calls us out. A friend or family member or church member or stranger who recognizes what we try so hard to hide. And when that happens, the shame rises and, with it, pain. In many cases, we withdraw or retaliate, shut down or double up our drive to impress. But the hard truth behind all those reactions is that, at some level, we’re ashamed of who we are.
Perhaps this is why at Christmas, I find great comfort in a Savior who chose a humble birth. Although completely without defect or disability, he chose mortality. He exchanged unpolluted glory for filthy flesh, unlimited wealth for devastating poverty. He left a throne for a manger, a heavenly body for a human one. I can hardly breathe for the thought. In a world of men and women and children who fight for attention and affluence, he determined to assume none of it. Why? Because He wanted us to know we are loved, in all our insufficiency. And He is with us.
The night of Jesus’ birth has all the makings of the perfect night. Let’s savor it, marvel at it, become different because of it. Let’s spend less time chasing after all that glitters and shines, and instead sink deeply into glorious humility of the nativity. No need for gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Instead, bring him your weaknesses. Your differences and disabilities. Bring him all the hidden and humble parts of you, the embarrassment and shame. Because it is in our inadequacy that we meet His sufficiency. And it is in our disability that we discover the affection of a manger King who will one day deliver us whole and holy into glory.
A storyteller at heart, Michele Cushatt has spoken nationwide with Women of Faith and Compassion International, and is co-host of the popular leadership podcast This Is Your Life With Michael Hyatt. Her first book, a memoir titled Undone: A Story of Making Peace With An Unexpected Life, released with Zondervan in 2015. Michele and her husband, Troy, live in Denver, Colorado with their six children. You can read more about her incredible story at www.MicheleCushatt.com.