I went to a public office one day, no names mentioned, and when I walked in the door I was confronted by a touch screen kiosk where I could indicate the reason for my visit. After making my choice, a ticket came out of the machine and I realised that I was now identified as person number A235.
I sat down in the waiting area and watched the numbers on the large screen on the wall changing from time to time to the sound of an electronic voice announcing that number B146 could move to counter five.
I wasn’t there for anything complex, but I had the distinct impression that I was no longer a real person with the capacity to manage my own affairs, to plan, to think, to dream, to hope. I was now a cog that looked like every other cog in the great bureaucratic wheel of misfortune.
I’m sure the process was established to facilitate a smooth customer service experience, but it actually had the effect of disempowering and disengaging the people who use the service.
It made me wonder if, as we interact with people each day at work, at school or university, in the shops or on the street, do we just see the people around us as a number, or is there something more?
As we walk alongside people, it’s important that we are aware of their strengths and not just focus on the obvious weaknesses they may exhibit. Rather than seeing their disability, their failings and their disadvantage, we recognise their strengths, their capabilities, their achievements and their contributions.
That’s not always easy to do, because we are often conditioned to see people from our own perspective and whether we intend to or not, judge people according to our own experiences, standards and ideals. When people don’t meet them they are often diminished in our thinking.
It takes work to train ourselves to see the face of Jesus in the face of another, to recognise the image of God in a person who is different from us in the way they’re dressed, the colour of their skin, and even the way they behave.
I have to say I’m glad that when God looks at me he doesn’t just see my faults, but has the capacity to see my potential. I’m also glad that I’m not just a number to God, but that I am individually loved and valued.
I’m glad that when God looks at me he sees the face of Jesus – a face that is scarred. A face that bears the tears of love. A face that has eyes of compassion and a smile of acknowledgement.
I’m not just number A235, but because of what Jesus did for me when he gave his life at Calvary, I’ve been accepted by God and adopted into his family.
If you’re feeling as if nobody cares, that you’re not good enough, that you’re only a number and there’s no purpose in life, I invite you to look into the face of Jesus, and as he gazes into your eyes, hear him saying to you: I love you and you are precious to me … and I’ve given everything , including my life for you.