To See Ourselves as Others See us
To A Louse, by Robert Burns (On seeing one on a lady’s bonnet, at Church 1786)
It was that time of year again, January 25th, when Scots worldwide dress up in kilts and highland regalia, don tartan bonnets with red artificial hair at the sides and speak in a dialect that most of the world, let alone most Scots, don’t understand any more. Yes, it was Burns night earlier this week.
I rather like Burn’s poetry, or at least that which I can understand of it, yet I think it is fair to say that historically the church has frowned upon him and he did not think so highly of the church either. After all, as described in an article in the Scotsman this week, he was a founding father of the Romantic era which greatly endorsed liberalism. But for all that, I think Burns was an astute judge of character and many of his criticisms of church at the time were valid. His take on life was earthy but it reflected reality and the hardships which many, himself included, had to endure at the time.
The verse above is the opening verse of one of my favourite Burn’s poems. To a louse, i.e. that horrible creepy crawly that we call a head louse. I was once invited to a Burn’s night in someone’s home and we were each asked to contribute something by way of a Burn’s poem or song. One lady started to recite ‘To a Louse’ and as she introduced the poem she referred to it as ‘To a loose’ to which I corrected her by pointing out that it was a louse. She politely corrected me, to my embarrassment, by pointing out that she was from Ayrshire, Burn’s country, and should be regarded as being the more orthodox in her interpretation. She was correct!
The poem is very amusing. Burns must have been sitting in church and having seen this ‘crowlin ferlie’ make its way through the hair of a lady he questions its impudence. Surely this was no place for it to be but actually, the ‘ugly, creepin, blastit wonner’, Detested, was…’shunn’d by saunt an’ sinner’, alike. And the critter had no preference over where it found its next meal. The poem closes by inviting us to see ourselves as others see us. A great gift, which would be a grace to us if we accept it.
Having the grace to see ourselves as others see us is a wonderful gift. To realise that not only head lice are unparticular about where they bide but neither is God. Jesus dwelled among us and visited both ‘saunt an sinner’. His grace is sufficient for us all and we can accept it by faith and be thankful in the expectation that he will transform us from sinner to saint. Now that is something to be thankful for.
Burns is famous for many a song and poem but on the subject of grace he also wrote graces for expressing thanks for things like our food. Perhaps Burns has left us more to ponder than previous generations of Christians have stopped to think about. How do we see ourselves? And how much do we express our gratitude to God for everything, every day, from the gift of His Son and salvation to the very food that we so take for granted. O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!
Grace – Giving Thanks
Selkirk Grace (1)
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
The last line is often varied to read-
And sae the Lord be thankit
Selkirk Grace (2)
Some have meat and cannot eat,
Some cannot eat that want it;
But we have meat and we can eat,
So let the Lord be thankit.
A Grace Before Dinner
O thou who kindly dost provide
For ev’ry creature’s want!
We bless the God of Nature wide,
For all Thy goodness lent.
And if it please Thee, heavenly Guide,
May never worse be sent;
But, whether granted or denied,
Lord, bless us with content.
A Grace After Dinner
O Thou, in whom we live and move,
Who made the sea and shore,
Thou goodness constantly we prove,
And, grateful, would adore.
And, if it please Thee, Power above!
Still grant us with such store
The friend we trust, the fair we love,
And we desire no more.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
(1 Corinthians 16:23New International Version)