The Way Things Appear
“We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.” (Stephen Covey)
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. Then I think, maybe they don’t even consider me much at all.
When others do judge me based on appearance, or at least when 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.
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 to a great extent with the people ingrained within my life, never will I fully know their intentions, their hearts. 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
“The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
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.
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.
Going Beyond 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. The only way I’ve found to successfully do this is through the Holy Spirit and letting my thinking be lined up with God’s will.
“If the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)
“Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.” (Romans 12:3)