We're under three weeks from Christmas! Have you got all your shopping done? I must confess that I haven't even started. If any of you do any shopping at outlet malls, you'll recognize the term "As Is".* Frequently, you can get great deals on clothing or other items. They'll be stacked together in bins near the front of the store with tags on them that say: "As Is".
That's kind of a "buyer beware" euphemism for: "Something is wrong with this, but we're not going to tell you what it is."
Sometimes they'll call these clothes "Slightly Irregular". One sleeve will be longer than the other, or a stitch will be out of alignment. Zippers won't zip. Collars won't flip. Buttons won't match. There is likely to be a stain or defect in the dye. Something will be wrong, and you will find it. When you find the flaw, you cannot bring it back to the store and demand your money back. The only way to get that item at that price is to buy it "As Is".
In the next few weeks there will be people gathering at your house. Or you'll be gathering at their house. And maybe everyone around your Christmas table will be a paragon of mental and emotional health. If you're like the rest of us, though, there will be at least one person sitting there with an "As Is" tag sticking out from under their sweater.
They're weird (if they're poor), odd (if they're middle class) or eccentric (if they're wealthy). They're slightly irregular in some way. They've got a bruised ego. They feel comfortable sharing intimate details in public. They don't have all the filters most of the rest of us have. And we don't always know what to do with them.
We all want peace in our homes during the holidays. But it escapes too many of us too often, and I think there's one primary reason for it. We fail to accept one another "As Is". We penalize others for failing to meet our expectations, or we put up with things and put up with things and put up with things until we finally explode.
Over the next few days, I want to talk more about this idea of accepting one another with our foibles and failures, with our brokenness and our irregularities. I want to try and figure out what it means -- and what it doesn't mean.
And here's why it's important: Your weirdo aunt isn't the only one who has an "As Is" tag sticking out from under her sweater. Take a good look at the family photo from last year. Look at yourself (come on, that's where your eyes went naturally) and notice what's sticking out from under your collar in the back. Do you see it?
Odds are there was at least one person sitting somewhere around a table somewhere who thought that about you.
In fact, look closely enough at everyone around the table, and you'll see that they've all got their tags showing. Some are just more visible than others.
The truth about human beings is that we're all slightly irregular, and what we all long for most of all is for someone to accept us "As Is".
*This image comes from John Ortberg's book, Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them.