I went on a new venture yesterday. It was full of goblins and warlocks...and hydras, the most deadly of sorts! ...Okay, perhaps there were none of those things, but an adventure did take place and I found myself somewhere I hardly ever go: the seafood section of Kroger. I am ashamed to admit the actual length of time it had been since I had last cooked Brittany, my fiancé, dinner, so let's just go with that; that it had been too long. Peering through the glass at all the various frozen fish, I found myself pretending like I knew what in the world I was doing, admiring each fish, each lobster, crawfish, and shrimp as if I could tell a difference. Finally, there it was, crunched in the ice: snow crab. That's romantic AND delicious! So I picked up a few sides I knew she'd like and headed home to cook dinner.
A few phone calls to home and a Google search later, I was prepared to try and cook these crab legs and was convinced that they would be great! It was all ready--I had the frozen crab, the vegetables and salad, the pots, and even a nut cracker to help us get the meat out of the claws. For whatever reasons though, I must admit I was still a little nervous to actually try this new recipe (I even bought a lb. of ground beef in case it be necessary that we resort to cheeseburger Hamburger Helper as a back up). It wasn't until I had begun boiling the water that I had started to ease up. The seasoning, though, that did it. I put some salt and pepper in the water, and that was okay, but the Zatarains crab boil seasoning did it. The water turned colors and an aroma that reminded me of crab filled the house. I was about to vigorously boil the mess out of these crab legs (as said on the package) and they were going to be the best dang crab legs ever.
Those crab legs were pretty good, perhaps even the best ever, but don't really point to where the rest of this post is going. My point in describing this actually has to do with the fact that, in my mind, they were not validated to be good until I smelled the seasoning in the air. It was not until Then that I accepted them as good. It caught me by surprise, honestly, that such an indicator, as smell, was all that was required for me to gain my confidence in both those crab legs and in my cooking abilities. Perhaps its because I have been studying about people with disabilities and who those who are marginalized in our communities in my classes at seminary, but I could not help but wonder from there what the other indicators are that have or have had a greater impact on me. It made me wonder what is first required for me to validate someone as "able," or, even more basic, human. Is it literacy? Comprehension? The ability of one to have mastered his senses, so he can properly see, feel, talk, taste, and smell? Maybe the capitalist in me kicks in and my indicator is wealth. Who knows? But those flashing lights are in all of us. In seminary, the word is "capacity." "Who do you have the 'capacity' to be friends with?", is a question that might be asked of us. It is to prompt us to think deeper into who we are, to look at our closest relationships, be it with family or friends, and wonder why and how we connect. Or don't.
When asked this, it was easy for me to look within myself and my circles and stop there. If following this prompt is all a self evaluation is based upon, and in this class it was, then the question can be quickly answered and dismissed. Unfortunately, I have the problem that I sometimes let these things haunt me. The issue is that ultimately we MUST look beyond ourselves and our circles in order to properly address the root of the question: value. Often we attach value to those who are quite like ourselves, bringing about social issues, race, gender, class, etc. I use wealth as an indicator. Speech. Clothing. Virtue. Virtue, that's a good one. Dietrich Bonhoeffer takes up this idea of "virtue" quite convincingly in his book Ethics. He argues that because we are no longer at our origin, one with God, separated when we ate of the fruit and attained the knowledge of good and evil, our knowledge of even virtuous behavior is invalidated, as our rule of measurement is now of our Own knowledge, as opposed to God's. He says this, "It is not by ideals and programmes or by conscience, duty, responsibility and virtue that reality can be confronted and overcome, but simply and solely by the perfect love of God."
From crab to Christ. The deal is that it goes something like this; our love for others comes from God. In fact, God is LOVE (I John 4:16); "that is to say not a human attitude, a conviction or a deed, but God Himself is love. Only he who knows God knows what love is." (Bonhoeffer) Christ, manifested from this love, broke the barrier between God and world down and filled the gap. Our love MUST come from the source, an infinite source of unlimited love poured out for ALL of us, even those of the margins. The question in turn moves away from what is our capacity to love others to what is our capacity to accept Christ's love for others, because he, who gave the command to love over and over and over again was sent to the grave for them, and ascended for them, too. That's the magnificence of it all--we have ALL been validated by the cross. Yet, even with this knowledge, I withdraw myself and judge, incapable of understanding Christ's full embrace of humanity, forced to rely upon my signals of validation, even with this new Christ-like pursuit of invalidating this world-notion of validation with the realization that in some ways we are all disabled; already purchased; incapable of being loved more; that we have already been validated.