Need a lift today? Here is a story that is worth your time. Susan Boyle is a 47 year old church volunteer from West Lothian, Scotland. She decided to be a contestant on the TV show Britain’s Got Talent. When Boyle walked out on the stage nearly everyone assumed she was one of the delusional dreamers that provide comic relief and even cruel sport for Simon Cowell and the other judges. Susan is a frumpy spinster who admits she “has never been kissed”. She lives alone with her pet cat Pebbles. You would not give her a second glance if you saw her in public.
She announced that she wanted a career in the mold of musical theater star Elaine Paige. The audience snickered. It would have been like me announcing I wanted to be a defensive lineman in the National Football League. You would look at my scrawny upper body and chuckle or feel a little sorry for me. Susan Boyle looked that unlikely. Then she began to sing “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Misérables. Check out the video of Susan Boyle auditioning for the show on April 11th.
Boyle is the youngest of nine children. She suffered oxygen deprivation during birth that resulted in learning disabilities. Not surprisingnly her classmates teased her because of the classroom struggles and her appearance. She stopped her pursuit of singing to look after her sick mother who died in 2007. Her performance on Britain’s Got Talent was the first time Boyle had sung after her mother’s death.
When I listened to Boyle’s performance I was uplifted. My eyes grew misty. But a little later I felt sad. Sad because I wonder how many gifted people I marginalize because they don’t fit my “profile”.
I wondered how often we make the same mistake in the body of Christ that the show judges made in their initial judgment of Susan Boyle. We look at the outward appearance and make our decision. You don’t look the part. You don’t fit my preconceived notion. We are looking for someone better looking or more outgoing or more engaging. You could tell from the judges sideways glances that they had already made their judgement about this unassuming woman.
And then she opened her mouth to sing.
God has given all of us a vital role in the body of Christ. Lord, forgive me that I have judged your people before I took the time to see how you have gifted them to serve You. Paul realized that every part of the body is vital.
The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12, NLT)
Later in the passage Paul summarizes his analogy.
If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.
It is so easy to value the wrong things. So natural to gravitate toward the funny and the attractive. I am guilty. I am sure that God has put people like Susan Boyle in my midst and I looked right past them to someone that is more in my image. I pray that I will be sensitive through His Holy Spirit to look for the gifts and talent in every part of the body of Christ. You will never know how God has gifted one of His Children by simply judging their appearance. Straight-shooter and toe-stomper James says it this way:
My dear brothers and sisters, how can you claim to have faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ if you favor some people over others? For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes. If you give special attention and a good seat to the rich person, but you say to the poor one, “You can stand over there, or else sit on the floor”—well, doesn’t this discrimination show that your judgments are guided by evil motives? (James 2, NLT)
Feel free to be direct, James. But I need to hear that straightforward truth. I pray that I can begin to see the body of Christ and those He puts in my path as God sees them. Valuable. Worthy. Precious in His sight. I am humbled by Susan Boyle today. And blessed by her.