We just celebrated the twenty-third anniversary of Princess Diana’s death. I am reminded of it because apparently Lady Di is making her appearance on the new season of The Crown to appear on Netflix. I am also thinking of Lady Di, because Elton John’s song, “Candle in the Wind” is playing on the radio. It was the song he made over and played at her funeral, as “Goodbye, England’s Rose”. It made you wonder how one could be so beloved, for what might be seen as a purly symbolic role of public appearances.
There is a very pregnant question in all of this, because like many celebrities who die young, Diana Spencer was an enigma. At the heart of her princess role was the desire to escape it, to be known for who she was rather than the plastic image that was cast upon her.
I think this silent ache may have telegraphed through her appearances and I suspect it is so because less was said, not more. She wanted those she visited, to talk more about themselves. It may have been her own escape from celebrity, the comfort of other peoples’ humdrum humanity. It underlines a universal, just how much people ache to be normal. They want to be seen from the inside-out no-matter-what.
The no-matter-what of course, is that the other person may not accept you. They may not even like you. Implicit I think in Lady Di’s visits, was the proposal, “I won’t judge you if you don’t judge me”. That sounds pretty much like forgiveness to me. Sensing and knowing the whole person but suspending judgement.
All of this brings me to a story told in the Bible about Jesus and a man in obvious physical distress. He was the paralytic whose friends thought to beat the crush of the crowd by lowering the the man on his pallet, through a hole in the roof thatch. Jesus surprised everyone by his first response. Such a dramatic entry underlined that the man no longer wanted to be consigned to life on a mat. He wanted to be healed, to get up and walk. But Jesus sensed a larger problem when he looked upon the man. Sin. The strange elephant in the room that we all share. Call it what you might, human faults and failing to measure up, sin seems to be mankind’s most painful and hidden problem. And so Jesus responded, “Your sins are forgiven”, which made the crowd stir in consternation. What about the man’s physical infirmity? It was apparently not the first order of the day.
Like us, I suspect the paralytic both wanted and feared the luxuy of transparency. He had no doubt been judged harshly his entire life for his visible infirmities enough to want to hide. There is a lot of judgement going on in the world today. We live in times where the online world has ramped up the definition of bullying, from teens texting unkind remarks about classmates, all the way down to comment sections in the news requiring moderation.
We don’t ever want to be judged by the same standards that we foist on others. In the second chapter of Romans, deals with this anomaly. Paul points out that if we are criticizing others, we had better have our own affairs in order as well. When we criticize, we ignore God’s kindness which is meant to lead us all to repentence. That’s the strange effect of unexpected grace. To NOT be judged makes us want to be better people. We want to live up to the unmerited favour we have received.
Ir makes me ponder how odd a thing prayer is. We are admonished to tell our Heavenly Father about our needs even though He already knows them. Telling God what we are lacking, puts our humanity in perspective, so perhaps it is worth repeating out loud, hoping for kindness rather than judgement. We all want to be truly seen, and at the same time, embraced. I think that's why it is called the Throne of Grace. It’s quite extraordinary that God knows all our bumps and warts up front but still wants us to come to the table.
Slow to speak but eager to listen. We saw the effect it had on luminaries the world-over. The lack of judgement evoked quite a genuine response. Judge not, lest ye be judged. Who would imagine we would be taking Biblical advice from a Princess?