Census, Jephthah and Mirrors

Yesterday was Census day. I filled in my name, family, address, education, health, work, religion, ethnicity, sexual identity…

This morning I read the story of Jephthah (Judges 11). His census form would include… Family: ‘His father was Gilead, his mother was a prostitute’. Address:  he ‘fled from his brothers and settled in Tob’ . Occupation: a rebel leader, military general and judge.

One of my school assemblies featured a ‘secret picture’. Holding this ‘picture’ with it’s back to the children I described it: ‘It’s a picture of someone that everybody knows’…. Eventually a volunteer would look at my ‘secret picture’. ‘Do you recognise that person?’

They always did. They were looking in a mirror.

Like the census the mirror shows the real me… teenage spots, senior wrinkles, grey hairs… Choosing not to look in the mirror doesn’t change what I look like.

Yesterday a good friend was looking in her mirror. She’s weary with her church that has shown little life or concern in the last year. She’s talking to her daughter and son-in-law who are going through a tough time in their marriage.

Family and church are very sad and complicated. She says: ‘I hope and pray that something may break through before either/both are completely worn out.’

Another friend, looking in his mirror, writes of imminent chemotherapy: ‘…ten 3-weekly cycles of infusion, with similar side-effects to last time. That will presumably mean I will feel unwell for 50% of the time…’

I complete the national census and send it off; looking in my mirror I complete my personal census – family, health, feelings, future; I reflect on what’s invisible and spiritual, my faith, hope and love.

Hundreds of years after he died Jephthah’s name was written in a ‘post-mortem census’… famous heroes from Jewish history who were commended for their faith… ‘Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.’

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