Elaine Scarry is credited by Tim Keller with developing the following thesis, “The experience of beauty makes us less self-centered and more open to justice.” This describes Exodus’s story.
The first time I saw her pictures, Exodus looked horrible. A gasoline-fueled fire burned nearly all her chest, neck and chin. Her stepdad tried to pull her burning shirt off her body, but it stuck on her jaw and caused tremendous pain; then scarring. Her medical pictures elicited in me both horror and joy. Let me explain.
Jesus had a very similar experience. In Luke 7 there is a story of a young man, the only son of a widow. When God-in-flesh comes into contact with this woman, as she is draped over her son’s coffin, sobbing, world-in-a-tailspin, he is moved.
Jesus had his heart wrenched. Wrecked. His guts were twisted. If you read the NIV or NAS, they’ll tell you that Jesus felt compassion or that his heart went out to her. They stop short of describing the depth of pity he felt. But he also experienced something else. Beauty. Before the man was brought back to life, Christ envisioned him healed. The ultimate selfless man, experiencing beauty, bringing justice.
I felt that too. Before Exodus came, I saw her healing. Brought to tears with the image of her family who were desperate for help, I could see new skin on her face. For me, this is very little faith. Faith for a plane ticket, faith for medicine that exists in every city in every state in the U.S. (My thanks to Shriners Hospital in Portland for Exodus’s excellent surgical care, thank you Dr. Denny Frederick at Tern Christian Counseling and Dr. Timothy Jolley for many hours of psychological, spiritual and physical care). Faith for a loving host family and a community that will love her while she is here (Thank you Cancro family & Evergreen Foursquare Church). Nobody raised her from the dead, but to her family, it feels awfully close.
She is physically beautiful now. In four short hours, she’ll be on a plane, heading home. She’s beautiful not just because of her physical healing; she’s beautiful because of all the things that have happened because of her story. I know it’s made me a little less self-centered and more open to Justice.
On the subject of justice: it’s not unjust to be burned (assuming it was an accident – as in Exodus’s case). It is not unjust for me to do nothing for the millions of people who have been burned. I’m sure there were other widows clinging to their only sons’ coffins when Jesus walked the earth. I believe injustice abounds when one human stands in front of us with a great need and we turn a blind eye to their existence.