There is an old saying that goes, “You cannot judge a book by it’s cover.” This old fashion saying holds great truth and profound wisdom. I sometimes wonder how many younger people have never heard this idiom before? There are all types of examples of this in the world around us, especially within people:
There are people who appear very thin, but are high in body fat and unhealthy.
There are people who are very heavy, but extremely fit and healthy.
There are those who are attractive on the outside, but ugly on the inside.
There are those who aren’t so attractive on the outside, but gorgeous on the inside.
There are wealthy people who live modestly and there are poor people who live extravagantly.
All of these are examples of appearance to outward eye being one thing but the reality quite another. This is a concept I have been well aware of for most of my life. No one had to tell me, I noticed it by observation. It’s quit interesting really, how a young girl would spend time being a student of “people.”
Growing up my Mother poured a lot of wisdom into me. She would teach me all kinds of things and when it had nuggets of wisdom, she would say, “That one is for your Book of Life.” I would listen and then etch her every word onto the tablet of my heart and I would burn it into my mind. I was like a sponge, taking it all in. By the time I was in the 8th grade, my Little Book of Life was getting pretty thick, but I had started another little book of mental notations as well. The source of my inspiration was people, ALL people. If I had interaction with you, I learned something from you I promise. You could have been the mean girl at school, the strange and awkward kid who lacked social skills, the harsh teacher, the kind teacher…it didn’t matter. You didn’t even have to be interacting with me, I was watching! I had my Book of Wisdom my Mother was writing and I had my own book I was writing that contained all the things I DIDN’T want to do. Especially things I observed that made others feel badly. I have always had a deep concern for people feelings, empathetic and compassionate. I was learning by the mistakes of others, so I could avoid them myself.
It’s interesting to me how God shapes and molds the human life. He gathers every detail of our existence and every experience we have and He cultivates it. We’ve heard before the analogies of it being like a tapestry that has been woven, or a mural. I, naturally, see a garden. I learned at a young age how to distinguish a weed from a flower as it relates to human behavior.
I had been probing this idea to write about peculiar assumptions people make, for quite some time, but this week I was getting little inspirations and reminders of it. I get inspiration and little sayings, quotes or word combinations floating into my mind at random moments, so I am always scratching on a piece of paper or notepad or my journal. This day, I was driving to get the kids from school and it all flooded my mind. I scribbled my notes as I sat waiting for my boys in the car. In this same day, my daughter tells me a story she heard form her teacher. Her story tied in so beautifully to my very ponderings I asked her if I could share.
Alex’s teacher shared a personal account of his experience at the DMV. Now, if you’re not from Stockton or California, DMV is the Department of Motor Vehicles and while you wait…well, it makes for some very interesting people watching! Apparently, this was the case when her teacher took his seat to wait his turn. He opened his laptop and began to work when the young man next to him said, “I know.” The teacher was a bit surprised and looked up at the young man, somewhere in his early twenties, and the he said it again, “I know.” Alex’s teacher replies, “what do you know?” or something to that effect. Then the young man proceeds to explain to the teacher that he knows that he (the teacher) was judging him for his appearance. The young man “looked” very gangster like. However, unlike a stereotypical gang member, this young man was very articulate and well spoken, educated. The teacher became intrigued, especially being an English teacher, at the vocabulary and eloquence of this young mans speech. His curiosity increased as he leaned in to hear the young man’s tale.
The young, gang member looking, man began to explain to the teacher that this was how he had to dress because of where he lived. He explained that he didn’t want to dress that way, he knew the perception it gave others, but if he wanted to survive in his neighborhood he had to blend in. After an extended conversation the young man even took the time to show the teacher how elaborate his look was. He wore sagging blue jeans with boxer shorts showing out the top. But when he pulled his shirt up a bit so the Alex’s teacher could see that not only did the pants have belt around the jeans to keep them low without falling, the REAL belt was looped through belt loops sown into his boxer shorts up around his waist. He said those jeans cost him $150. A perfect example of my case in point. I guess I should also add the disclaimer that though the saggy jean/boxer look is a bit of a gang stereotype, it is also fashionable amongst some to dress this way. Saggy jeans doesn’t mean you belong to a gang.
I am saying all of this to cause reflection. Many times we, all of us, see things a specific way because we are conditioned to it. We place everything in compartments in our mind. Many times we experience something or see something and place it into a compartment of assumption that it doesn’t belong in. For example, though I am an encourager, just like all other encouragers, we value encouragement as well! Just because we are God’s little cheerleaders doesn’t mean we never need a pep talk. Make sense? Or just because someone is driving a fancy car, it doesn’t mean they can afford the fancy car. Did you know there are countless celebrities who make more money than you will ever see and they live pay check to pay check? It’s true!
In the military, a Marine has to get into strange and awkward positions in order to watch their post. They may have to hold this position for hours at a time. They must stay in perfect balance so they can watch undetected. They are conditioned and trained to do so. What awkward and uncomfortable position are you in? Have you been treated poorly because of how you “look”, when really you just wished others would take the time to get to know you? Perhaps, you are God’s soldier in training, building your resilience to not break down, but stand your ground when added pressures come? You are being groomed into an impenetrable wall of Courage, Strength and Might. When God has worked his coarse through you and you have finished your “schooling” then you shall pass your test and the results may look something like this:
You are an impenetrable wall of Resilience and Tenacity. You have to go for broke. You have to be all in, no holding back. God is not interested in a “fence walking” Christian. Honestly, He already has enough of those. Allow Him to breath new life in your blood. Allow Him to overtake your heart…your arteries…your veins. Then every ounce of your vascular system can exude LIFE. It would be upon your breath. It would touch your lips. Your skin would tingle and you would become fascinated with the Giver of all. He wants all of you. Then, after all has come to pass, others would look upon you, your life and they would like what they see. The scent of your breath would be sweet and the words of your lips would be inviting, tantalizing the spirit, but never eluding their hearts. Then those very people who gaze upon you, would realize they, too, could cross over and have a deeper existence, a healed life. Their hope would be renewed. All of this could come through you, all because God has ordained it to be so. The ultimate key to victory is…balance.
Challenge yourself to see others this week through fresh eyes. Break the mold of assumption and see each and every person as an individual with their own heart, their own story, their own voice. People are beautiful and wonderful and they are hurting and in need. They need our strong arms around them to help them succeed. Make a difference in your own life and the lives of others and watch the Fire of the One who is Faithful Ignite Fire and Passion in his people like never witnessed before. You can do it! I know you can.
“To know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson