Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Faces by J. Barrie Shepherd

What is it about faces,
tells us so much more about a person?
Hands, after all, are equally distinct,
each finger bearing signs which mark
the bearer as unique, unrepeatable,
Even the hairs of our heads
are not merely numbered, as Jesus
once assured, but by chemical analysis
can be made to reveal volumes about
the individual below.
Yet we read faces to discover
in an instant not only who a person is,
but how she feels, what he thinks,
and whether or not the attitude
displayed there momentarily
denotes affection or refection.
Animals, fish, even insects to
have faces, highly concentrated areas
for gathering food, air, and information.
And at times we feel that we can see
emotion there as well,
the smiling of a dog,
the sophisticated boredom of a cat,
the panic of a startled hare.

What did he see, I wonder,
in the faces that confronted him?
Surely his sympathy,
his supreme compassion,
his ability to “feel with” those he met,
must have led him to great insight,
to an almost miraculous ability
to see into, to perceive
what was going on within,
behind the visages
encountered on his daily round.
And understanding this, what a divine
forgiving patience to put up with
our attempts at dissimulation and deceit,
the foolish ways we try to mask
the truth of who and where
and why we are.
And as for his face,
why, the great galleries and museums
of the ages all are filled with our attempts
to reproduce those features that expressed
the true Emmanuel-God with us,
those lineaments in which we saw
for the first and fullest time
the grace of God lived out in gladness,
sorrow, and eternal tenderness.
Yet if we would believe his words
his face is to be sought and found
wherever hunger, hurt, and deprivation
are found within the family of God;
whenever love is moved to touch
and mend and heal.

J. Barrie Shepherd. Face at the Manger. Upper Room Books. 1992.

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