Looking at my name and picture you would never guess that I’m Italian, but it’s true. My mother’s maiden name is Di Blasio, both her parents immigrated to America from Abruzzi, Italy.
Memories of my Grand Pop are few and far between. He died quite suddenly when I was young. He was very tall and had ears so huge that the name “Dumbo” would just leap out of your mouth. While I cannot confirm it, there is local folklore that when the wind was just right, he could actually float in midair. He made President Lyndon Johnson’s ears look positively petite. But the most remarkable thing about his ears was not their size but the volume of hair that grew in them. It looked like someone had shoved mushroom caps in his ears as a decoration. There are bald men all over America that were green with envy at the hair coming out of his ears. He received several offers for harvesting hair transplants just from inside his ears alone. I would climb up into his lap for a hug, but the hug was a diversionary tactic. The real reason was to get up close and personal to see what was trapped in his ear hair. You would be amazed at the debris and life forms entombed in his web of ear hair.
In contrast, I have very loving and strong memories about my Grand Mom. She was very sweet, loving and always trying to feed me. At age 13 she could comfortably stand up underneath my outstretched arm. She was wider than she was tall, and you could die for lack of oxygen if she pulled you face first into her for a hug that lasted way too long. Her homemade pastas were amazing. Her ravioli were legendary as they almost floated in midair (nothing like the hockey pucks you get in the frozen food section). The air of her house was filled with garlic and fresh herbs, everything was homemade. When you add all the yelling, screaming and Italian cursing, it was sensory overload to the extreme.
Beyond everything else, my Grand Mom’s homemade spaghetti sauce was beyond compare. And there is only one way to adequately describe her sauce – “it’s in there.”
It was an all-day affair, no shortcuts. My grandparents were definitely on the low side of the economic bell curve (as a matter of fact, my parents would argue over who was the most destitute growing up.) While she never had much money, I never saw her use non-traditional or substitute ingredients. It was made in the largest pot in the house, and that’s saying something. If she stirred the sauce once, she stirred it 5,000 times.
There is not enough time or space to adequately describe the list of ingredients, recipe and love that went into it. In these “good old days” there was no such thing as prepared sauce in a jar. Even if there was, it would not be caught dead in my Grand Mom’s kitchen. She broke up plum tomatoes by hand with a fork followed by a symphony of ingredients; tomato sauce, beef, pork, veal, Italian sausage along with a host of herbs and spices. I would watch in wonder as she almost danced with skill and grace, making her sauce, moving between the refrigerator (pronounced “Frigidaire”), sink (pronounced “zinc”) and stove. About two hours into the process, it got serious as the tasting started, adding just the right ingredients to bring home that taste and consistency that we all loved. The memories are so vivid and strong I can almost taste her sauce just writing these words.
So now you have some idea why I use the phrase “it’s in there” to describe her sauce. It started with the ingredients, but there was so much more than that. There was skill, experience, tenderness and love.
And the “it’s in there” phrase can also be said about God. He didn’t want to leave us hanging, guessing “Who is God? What’s he like? What does he want for me?” When he wanted to show us what he was like, he came to earth in Jesus. And not just in part, but fully. In looking at Jesus, the Bible tells us that in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. Another way of saying this is that God completely lives in Jesus.
When we ask the question, “What is God really like?” The answer is “Look at Jesus”. So, what can we learn about God when we look at Jesus. You might be surprised;
- You see the most nonreligious spiritual leader in history. Jesus is not interested in popularity, power or prestige. He’s not concerned with a political agenda, a building program or social change. His harshest criticism is reserved for the religious power-brokers, comparing them to the dirtiest and most disgusting images of his day.
- Jesus had very little patience with the proud and arrogant, people who thought that they had it all together. No matter what their position in society, he uniformly condemned everyone who thought they were better than others, seeing only good in their personal moral mirror.
- When asked questions, Jesus gives straight answers. We don’t see Jesus couching his words or coddling people in some “politically correct” blanket. Also, unlike some leaders and politicians, you never see him taking back something he said, changing his mind or position. Jesus speaks plainly about his being God, loving God and people.
- Jesus has loads of love and compassion for people who know they are broken, needing help. He never turned away people asking questions or for help, even if it required a change in his plans. He was never too busy to listen, help, touch, heal and forgive.
The list of examples where Jesus demonstrated God’s love for the broken is long. He was more than willing to get personally involved in the lives of people that no one else would dare to talk with or touch;
- Lepers – while others feared contamination and being ostracized by family and friends, Jesus touches, heals and restores
- Tax collectors – these are traitors who got rich by ripping off their neighbors, family and countrymen. Jesus invites himself to their house, meeting and eating with them and their friends. He follows up dinner with a story about restoration and forgiveness, even calling Matthew to be one of his closest friends/followers.
- Reputation – Jesus is not afraid to be with and forgive people that are so filled with guilt for their terrible mistakes. He does not try and hold shame over their heads, but offers forgiveness, a clean start and power to change.
Yes, Jesus is the true picture of who God is. And he is calling all of us to come right now. There is no self-help “clean yourself up” program. We are to come to God just like we are. There is an old hymn that says it all about coming Just as I Am;
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without
God does not ask us to come with all our questions answered. He does not expect us to have figured it all out first. No, his invitation is to start the process of knowing him right from wherever we are. His promise and commitment is to walk with us, listen and talk with us, give us answers that we need to hear, clean us up, giving us power to change into the people we desperately want to be.
Now is the time to look to Jesus to heal our broken hearts and soul. We need to look to him for forgiveness and restoration. So, when we need to see what God is truly like, look at Jesus. He is the true picture of who God is, because he is God… “He’s in there.”
Blessings - Chet
Chet Gladkowski writes and speaks on contemporary topics that impact our lives, culture and faith.
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