Fourth Sunday of Lent

Contributed by Rev. Yana J. Pagan. This is the fourth in a series of blog posts for Lent. Scripture readings for the fourth Sunday of Lent are 1 Samuel 16:1-13; Psalm 23; Ephesians 5:8-14; John 9-41.

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“Anointing of David” from the Paris Psalter

Appearance is everything! No matter what people tell you, people make judgments on first impressions. I experience it every day as a handicapped, young, latina clergy woman. People start judging me before a word can even come from my mouth. This seems so unfair and yet, at some level, we buy into it ourselves.

Take a look at social media: We often try to pretend we are something we are not. I decided at one point to try using a cartoon avatar as my profile picture just to entertain myself. But as I created my avatar, I realized it was more than just the entertainment. It was also the fact that I had the opportunity to make myself into something that I was not. I’ve always admired my father’s darker skin tone, so I gave my cartoon avatar darker skin than I actually have. I’m only 4’11 and I’ve always wanted to be taller, so I made my cartoon character taller. I am more full-figured as a woman but I want to be slim, so I found a way to make my cartoon self a sexy full-figured woman.

The interesting thing about this is that I don’t think of myself right now as someone who is unhappy with herself; but some of my self-perception is shaped by how others perceive me. Because I’m reacting to how society perceives me, I shaped my cartoon avatar to fit that perception better. Also, it’s easier to make changes in a cartoon character than what I can do in real-life. But, in reality I like who I am. It has taken me 38 years to figure that out, but I really like the woman I have become. I think too many of us become dissatisfied, or even disgusted, with ourselves because of society’s standards that we see evidenced on most magazine covers.

And yet, we are all made in the image of God! We are made in the image of God no matter our skin color, our type of hair, our body type…. We are all made in the image of God. It’s hard for me to hear my young nieces at 10 years old talk about being fat because that’s what their friends are saying. It makes me wonder at the cruelty of the standard images we hold up as “beautiful” in our society.

I cannot stand that society forces young people, especially women, to think that they have so much to prove or simply that they’re just not good enough. But we can hold fast to the fact that no matter how people may judge,  the God who we serve does not look at the outward appearance. Rather, God looks deep within ourselves where no one else can see. God cares more about our hearts: God knows the intentions of our hearts and that is what makes all the difference. In one of our Scripture stories today, that is what makes David the king. Nothing in his appearance would have set him apart from his brothers. For God, however, only David’s heart mattered. God looked within and knew that David was good enough for the job.

On this Sunday of Lent, reflect on who God created you to be. Ask for God’s help in focusing only on your inward heart, attitudes, and faith in God. For you are beautifully and wonderfully created by God.

0475-0092Rev. Yana J.C. Pagan is a chaplain and a  professor of justice at Esperanza College, Eastern University, Philadelphia, PA.

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