Note to reader: Originally published on 12.8.22 as an Advent meditation for St. Luke’s Parish, in which I reflected on a painting called Wisdom Woman, pictured here. The theme was “(re)connecting with self”.

Waiting in my car, in my daughter’s dance studio parking lot, I intended to write this reflection on Wisdom Woman. I’d been reflecting on her many eyes. And yet, I’m distracted.

Moments ago, despite the open spaces in farther away spots, one parent, pulls up next to me, into the only disabled-accessible spot; their car idles as they unload their child into the dance studio. 

My judgement flashes. I think of my friend with a wheelchair-bound child who regularly posts pictures of able-family drivers disrespecting the reserved spaces for those who need accessibility. But I tame my judgment. Let it go, I tell myself.

Parked as I am, car off, windows cracked, I observe the driver ably get back into the idling car in the reserved spot to then pull out their phone. Surrounding spaces clear out, yet they idle for 20 minutes.

My judgment flares. I imagine what I could say to make them aware of their negligence. Maybe a light knock on the window to mention that there are many other non-reserved spaces available. I also imagine getting out and passive-aggressively snapping a photo. How would they react? Am I up for being the parking lot police? 

And before I decide if I’m going to take action, the car pulls out, as if aware of the silent but fierce judgment from the neighboring car.

I almost let it go from my mind entirely, until I pull out Wisdom Woman to compose this reflection as I’d set out to do. And I see all those eyes on me. I see the shape of a mirror, looking back at me. I see my judgment that I so ably lashed out onto my neighbor. 

Oh Lord, I think. The mirror is looking back at me. All those eyes are on me

And I wonder, shyly, if Wisdom Woman is telling me: Look again, at yourself. Look from many directions at the way you live your life and the choices you make and the energy you expend. What are you learning here? How are you becoming more self-aware?

So I write all this down, and I’m feeling pretty smart that this reflection came to me in the course of one dance class. And I’m newly determined not to pass judgement so easily. And then, the driver comes back to pick up their dancer. And still, with many open spaces, they pull back into the one disabled-accessible spot and leave the idling car to retrieve their dancer. And just like that, my judgment rears its ferocious head.

Silently fuming in my car, I lean to peer into the car; and this time, I notice an elderly woman in there too. I shamefully take pause and feel my face redden. I hadn’t seen the whole picture. I likely still don’t have the full story.

Had I tapped on the window earlier, they might have just pulled the hanging blue tag from the glove compartment. Whoops, I forgot to put it on the rearview mirror today. Or, perhaps not. I don’t know, and I’m starting to think that it’s not my business. 

Maybe we’re all doing our best. 

And maybe all this fiery judgment that’s tearing apart our human fabric is because we don’t look at the world and see it as a mirror meant to guide us inward. A mirror that guides each of us toward being better humans to ourselves, each other and to the world. Instead, we so often catch glimpses, see what’s wrong, and point at others in blame, disgust and anger.

Wisdom Woman is telling me to look and look again, lean in, ask questions, look inward, and then do my best to lead a life that begins with compassion and honors humanity.

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