Painted Faces

Painted FacesI looked around me to see fellow commuters, most of them oblivious to the drama that played out before us as traffic stopped at the busy street corner. A haphazardly dressed clown stood at the front of a line and began to juggle five brightly colored rings. He wasn’t skilled, but his performance was the only option other than the blank stares of impatient drivers in their cars.

The thirty seconds of his act seemed like an hour. The clown awkwardly dropped his rings twice. A stuffed-toy monkey perched silently on his shoulder, reflecting the emotionless state of those around me. The clown’s sad expression couldn’t be hidden by the thick layer of paint that covered his face.

Then I looked at the lady in the car beside me. She was busily putting the final touches on another painted face. It was a graceful, wealthier version of the same weary mask worn by the street entertainer.

As the clown walked through the lines of cars the lady glanced upwards and her eyes met his. A closed window separated the two, but it was as if they looked into a mirror. There was no smile, no acknowledgment; not any sign that the two recognized the emptiness that marked their encounter. The clown continued down the row, his hand extended in a plea for a few coins from his audience. The lady zoomed off as soon as the light turned green.

I was not struck by the contrast between the rag-draped clown and the elegance of the rich lady. I was amazed to see the similarity in their gaze, seeking for something that they could not define. Their pursuit for joy and meaning hid behind the thin facade of a painted face. The two couldn’t have been more different, yet their facial expression was identical.

Joy is a commodity that is difficult to find in the hustle and bustle of life. Just look at the sense of despair etched on the faces of people in a crowd. There is a deep inner need that awaits fulfillment. Somehow all people are like the poor clown or the rich lady, needing a fresh infusion of purpose and joy.

Jesus came to earth to reestablish our relationship with God and to offer His followers a new sense of joy. He said, “I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete” (John 15:11).  He offers a divine sense of gladness that surpasses the difficult circumstances of our daily routines. His invitation for all men and women is to come to Him and find rest for their burdened souls.

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