The Way Things Appear

As I look at different houses lining the path of my day, I sometimes wonder about the lives lived within them. Why is the house so run down? Why don’t they take care of their yard? How can they afford that? How much money does he make?

When I see people face-to-face at the store or coffee shop or library, I make more internal inquiries based on appearances. Why doesn’t she care enough to style her hair? How could he wear such sloppy clothes in public? Can she really afford that? Why don’t they discipline their child?

I also imagine what people determine based on my appearance. More so in previous years but still some today, I adjust my appearance to try and direct their imaginations. But then I think, maybe they don’t even consider me much at all.

When others do judge me based on appearance, or at least I think they do, I am offended, angry even. Why? Because they don’t know me. They don’t know my story. And they certainly don’t know my heart, my intentions.

Appearances 1

When I realize I’m judging others based merely on appearances, I have to stop and think and deliberately tell myself that there’s more to the story than I know… more than I could ever know on my own. Rarely are things exactly as they appear.

For certain with passing people as I go about my day and certainly to a great extent with the people ingrained within my life, never will I fully know their intentions, their heart. Appearances will always play some role in my thinking about others and their thinking about me. Knowing this, I must let myself be guided past appearances.

Going Beyond Appearances

We certainly don’t want to be like the Israelites who wanted a king based on what others around them had (1 Samuel 8:4-5). We don’t want to be like the pharisees obsessed with following rules to appear holy (Matthew 23). And we don’t want to live like the Ephesians, simply going through the motions of religion (Revelation 2:2-5).

Instead, we want to defy our human nature and go beyond mere appearances. We want to be like Samuel who let God lead him beyond what initially appeared to be the right choice.

Appearances 2

When God told Samuel to look beyond appearances in the search for the next king, He guided Samuel to the right person. David defied appearances. He did not look like the right choice for a king. (His own father didn’t even bring him up at first.) Several of David’s brothers better fit the stereotype of a king. Yet Samuel followed God’s directing, which led him to the person who would go down in Biblical history as the “man after God’s own heart.”

How do we take our vision beyond mere appearances?

On our own, we can’t. While we can look at appearances and behavior and make determinations based on a person’s whole body of works, we cannot know everything about a person. Plus, people don’t (and shouldn’t) disclose every detail about themselves. Also, some will outright deceive, pretend and mislead to hide reality. We’ve all done it.

Yet, God wants us to develop relationships built on trust and love, which necessitates going past what we see and discovering what lies beyond appearances. How can we do this in a way that encourages truth and nurtures growth?

Appearances 3

DISCUSSION: How do we let our minds become controlled by the Holy Spirit? How do we let God change the way we think? And, how does doing so change the impact of appearances on our vision?

16 thoughts on “The Way Things Appear

  1. This is so good Kari! I'm reading Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God. I love the way he set his heart and mind on doing everything aware of God's presence, with prayer and surrendered. It's hard not to be surface gazers, but with God's help we can look deeper and love better. Enjoy a blessing-filled day!
    My recent post How to Stay Perfectly Balanced with Focal Points

    • Brother Lawrence definitely speaks to this topic in an amazing way. Thanks for bringing up his example, Deb. Yes, it's hard. And in our flesh, impossible. Fortunately, He has overcome our flesh, and we don't have to operate according to those rules anymore. We get to operate by the Spirit! That's exciting to me!

  2. Very good reminder. Our thinking is so important, yet too often, we let that part of us run rampant. How do we change or discipline our thoughts? Knowing our Father and accepting who He says we are as well as who He made others to be is a good step (in my opinion). We need lots of grace and usually lots of time to overcome the patterns we've built. Lots of food for thought here, Kari. Thank you.
    My recent post Aren’t All Restrictions Bad?

    • We definitely need to get to know Him more and more. That's essential. Grace is too. Time… amazing how small steps done over a long period of time add up to make a huge difference in our lives. Thanks, Jason.

  3. I constantly have to catch and stop myself from making first impression judgment calls. I have to remind myself how God sees and what He thinks about other people. It's about who the person is on the inside and not outside that counts the most. It takes time to get to know a person so we have to guard against negative or bad first impressions. Great post!
    My recent post Leadership Wisdom from My Readers (Pt. 10)

    • Thanks, Dan. It certainly is a constant struggle. But, I also believe that if we're struggling with something, that just means we haven't given in yet. So, keep struggling, my friend! What makes it hard too, I think, is the reality that appearances do say something about who the person is. For our part, I guess, we need to realize that our appearance does say something about us but that we also can't use appearances to be our sole judge of others. Hope that makes sense.

  4. I know I am prone to do this.. to judge quickly and by appearances. Knowing this I try to rein that in and try to find people's stories to better understand them. It is rare that my first impressions are spot on. I do think listen and observe people you can gather insight to gradually get to know them better. People in passing I need to let them be that and purposely not go to the judgement phase I will avoid looking at someone sometimes for I know I will jump to judge to do so.

    • I think we all are, Mark. Learning people's stories is a great way to put the idea of going beyond appearances. I like that. No, our first impressions are rarely accurate, but they are a starting point. We just can't let them exist as the only facts by which we operate. I have to be very deliberate when I look at others in passing too. I need to let the Holy Spirit give me a love for others that goes beyond what seems apparent by my eyes.

  5. Funny Kari. I came to this today (Thursday) , a day late, and my Bible reading this morning was the story of Samuel choosing David and then his epic battle with Goliath. How appropriate! I have to make a conscious effort to say, "Father, control my thoughts today." I cannot just assume it will happen.
    My recent post Quotes

  6. One of my prayers is for God to help me see others through His eyes and to love them with His heart.
    I've prayed that for years and found that it has helped me be more compassionate…however the prayer that has really begun to take root and change me is me asking God to reveal more of HIMSELF to me, to help me understand His love.
    It's in understanding His love and grace that He so abundantly has lavished on me that I am humbled and changed. It's seeing how imperfect I am and yet how loved that enables me to live closer to God and walk in the Spirit. As I draw closer to Him, the Holy Spirit inside me does the work of changing my heart, actions, and attitudes without me even realizing it. I simply shine Him because I'm drawing closer to Him (Matt 5:16). I don't have to try to shine His light, it simply happens.
    And when I'm focused on myself that light dims. I must intentionally seek Him each day. No days off.

    Great thought provoking post!
    My recent post Maternity Leave

    • Focus determines reality. Focus on ourselves, and our reality is selfish. Focus on Him, and our reality is love. The longer I live, the more I realize that more of Jesus is always the answer.

  7. Excellent post, Kari. I've found that when I don't know someone at all, I am more prone to make snap judgments and assumptions about them based upon superficial things. But when I take time to love them for who they are, I begin to empathize and understand their stories.

    Obviously, we don't have the capacity to hear the stories of every person we encounter, so this is when we must remember that all people are made in the image of God. Still, this is one area I struggle with on a regular basis.
    My recent post Snowmageddon & Keeping the Adventure Alive

    • Thanks, Chris. I've noticed that I get angry at someone I don't know for something when I overlook or don't even notice the same thing in someone I do know. Relationship makes the difference. We do have to trust God and keep in mind how much he loves others, even if they constantly annoy us. I share this constant struggle with you, my friend.

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