I’ve published a few books over the last eight or nine years, and something I’ve noticed when a person has read one of my books is her comments often circle around to what’s familiar to her. “This character reminds me so much of my grandmother!” or “That character grew up in my dad’s hometown!” These reviews lead me wonder if we always consume art—reading books and watching movies and listening to music and studying paintings—with an innate desire to make connections. Are we always looking for the familiar, ultimately searching for ourselves?
When our family travels and visits other cities, I often find myself glancing around the crowded airport or hotel lobby or amusement park assuming I’ll see someone I know. Maybe it’s because I live in a mid-sized city, am a member at a large church, and have four kids who’ve attended a variety of public, private, and magnet schools, and I do frequently bump into friends around town. Because of this, I operate on this notion that there’s always a friend somewhere in a sea of strangers. Whatever the reason, my mind will often begin to play tricks on me in these away-from-home spots. I’ll ask my husband, “Doesn’t she look just like our neighbor?” or “Wow! He looks exactly like your cousin!” Every so often, Brent will agree with me and say that the stranger is a doppelgänger for a person we know, but usually he doesn’t quite see eye to eye with me, making me think I’m grasping for something not quite true.
Part of our flawed construction is that we’re all selfish in varying degrees. We all try to make sense of situations by passing it through the lens of our own experiences and prejudices. And this attitude can make us lean toward compassion or toward narcissism. Fortunately for us, God knows we’re made this way (of course He does—He’s the One who made us!), so He gave us the ultimate example of empathy. He sent His Son to earth in human form. He let us see ourselves in the stories of the Bible, including the ones in which Jesus was sad or joyful, angry or pleased, hungry or thirsty, tired or cared for, dying or fully restored. He experienced all of this for us.
Philippians 2:5-8 “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion.” (The Message)