I don’t want to know what I weigh so much as what I weigh in comparison to you.
Not on the bathroom scale with the hand jumping from zero, though sometimes I think about that too.
More, I wonder how I measure up to you on those scales used in faraway markets and ancient exchanges. The kind long used to represent fairness and justice, with the two sides inching closer until they reach balance in the middle, zeroing out, even.
In my everyday life, I watch you parent, see how you put yourself together, hear about your dreams, your marriage, your trips, your activism, your giving and, more times than I wish, I’m thinking about how I measure up. Where I’m failing. Where I should throw some more weight.
Often without recognizing it, I’m weighing you against me, seeing whose side slams to the table, whose inches upward.
And today on this day in which the U.S. celebrates the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., I awake thinking of all those in this world and this nation, born into poverty or simply black or brown skin — those for whom the scales I use to measure still hardly apply.
For more human lives than I can imagine, true justice and the comparisons I ponder are as foreign as any market on the other side of the world. For them, equity is not a warm ideal, but the stuff of lunging and grasping for and resigning and so many more responses than I can know.
This week, I walked alone in the crisp air, frost still edging branches. The day would be full, and I was struggling with anxiety. How I’d need to prioritize, what I had to release. Concerns filled my mind, whirling like a building storm.
I tried to name them and lift them to God, and they kept spinning. I tried to embrace “I trust you,” and then the words exited my mouth. Surprisingly big and clear:
“Only you can tell me who I am.”
Only you can tell me who I am.
As I walked, I emphasized each word of this prayer fresh — the way I learned many years ago, searching a river alive with jumping salmon.
Each time that I emboldened a new word, I felt the distinct truth of it.
ONLY you can tell me who I am.
None other, though I so often look to the words, actions and (perceived or real) judgments of others to assess myself.
Only YOU can tell me who I am.
I choose to focus on the One who made me and lift up this name above my own struggles.
Only you can tell ME who I am.
In this intimate relationship between creator and created, you know every aspect of me. You trust me with this life and allow me to know you and thereby know myself.
Only you can tell me WHO I am.
Exactly the essence and the me of me. Yes, that.
Only you can tell me who I AM.
The parts of me that have nothing to do with the “do,” but just are. I can trust this God who knows his child and will show me how to move.
So many times I’ve heard that no two fingerprints are alike. That each snowflake is distinct. And as we consider these tiny aspects in the breadth of creation, the extension of the comparison is that we consider our own uniqueness.
Our own eye and skin color and body shape, our own perspective of the world and how to walk through it, our own combination of glories and weaknesses, gifts and mess-ups. The understood intention in this simile is that we see ourselves as special and intentionally beautiful.
Instead of fingerprints and snowflakes, though, our comparison default could be rain. We could say, Look at those raindrops, one after another the same. You’re just one of 7 billion.
But we don’t.
We say, those glorious fingertip curves like landscape, those white fuzzy asterisks falling from above, those small things — they are un-usual. Created individually and distinctly by the God who cares enough to do so.
So you? You of skin and bone and spirit, you are something.
Today, I am thinking of all the ways our world boxes in and stuffs small and limits and bids us compare. I am thinking of all the scales we use and the multitude of ways we find ourselves falling impossibly short.
So for the self, for the other, I’m wondering what it would be to agree with the God who made each one a unique and marvelous something and called it good.
Today, I’m wondering what it might be to agree with the good gifts of our individual humanity, crafted by God’s tender hand.
Today, I’m praying my eyes would be open to act justly.
Today, I’m praying that I refrain from attempts to cram myself or another on a scale for a value that simply cannot be measured.
Today, I’m joining up again with dear Amber Haines of The Runamuck, as we continue our exploration of voice in writing — using words we can see and touch to express things we cannot. Please visit Amber’s to read her glorious writing and that of other writers and friends who link up there. This week’s piece began with the prompt “SCALE.”