People are like icebergs

Imagine yourself in a small group. Doesn’t have to be church related. Maybe it’s a social club or a work event, and the goal at your table or in your particular circle of chairs is to get to know each other better. What three questions do people ask most frequently? In my experience, it’s name, occupation, and favorite movie. Or maybe favorite dessert (right, Tour Guides?).

Sure, it’s a great ice breaker. Yeah, it’s an easy, non-threatening way to get people talking. But come on. Can you really get to know someone better from those three things?

Names are always fascinating, but in today’s society, a name doesn’t mean the same thing it used to. And a job? Sure, jobs can tell you a lot about somebody, but a job is usually just a title. I’ve learned is that a job title is always only the top layer of someone.

And movies? Maybe in some cases you can learn a lot about someone from the movies they watch, but you can’t learn where a person is at in their lives simply because they enjoy a certain movie.

It’s tempting, though. It’s easy to put people in boxes because they’re easier to control there. In our own minds, if we label and organize people according our assumptions about them, they aren’t threatening anymore. Maybe I do that because I’m an insecure introvert, or maybe it’s more widespread than that.

Whether everyone does it or it’s just me, it’s not a good idea. People are like icebergs, and the real person underneath extends much father below the surface than you can see at a glance.

IcebergToday’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7 (again).

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I just blogged on this verse last week, but there’s no better statement I know to illustrate what God is reminding me of today. No matter what I see on the outside, a person is much more on the inside. And maybe I can’t see that, but God can.

When you meet someone new, do you automatically classify them in your brain? Do you categorize them or put them on mental shelves or file them away to be examined later? I do. And, honestly, I’m not even sure that approach is wrong.

It’s important to make a judgment call about the people you choose to get close to. If you want to stop partying, it’s not a good idea to strike up a close friendship with a partier. That’s a bad example, but you get the point. Sometimes you have to judge a relationship based on actions, and in many cases, that’s wise.

But if someone tells you their favorite movie or book or even job title, does that give you any insight into his or her heart? Absolutely not! But it’s tempting to see it that way.

You hear someone is a factory worker or a car mechanic, and what do you think? You hear someone is a banker or a stock broker, what do you think? You hear someone is a school teacher or a state employee, what do you think?

We like labels because once we label people, they aren’t threatening to us. Or at least we think they aren’t. That’s the funny thing about icebergs. Even if you label them harmless, they can still sink unsinkable ships.

A person’s heart is usually always different than what they look like on the outside, and there’s no easy, simple, three-question process you can go through that will shed any light on that. You can’t learn everything about a person in a few minutes. There is no such thing as a simple person. There’s no such thing as a person without a story.

So don’t think you can understand where someone is at because they like watching Big Bang Theory or Christmas Vacation. And don’t label someone a wild-eyed right-wing conservative because they watch Fox News. Before you can know where someone is at, you have to know their heart.

That’s what matters. That’s where the real person lives. It’s so much easier to address the outside. It’s so much less stressful to focus on what we can see, but imagine what you’ll miss if you write people off because you’re only looking at what’s obvious. Imagine the opportunities that will walk right past you because you assumed that factory worker was just a factory worker.

No, we can’t see people’s hearts. Only God can do that. But we can stop focusing so much on the outside or on what culture tells us to look at, and we do spend more time getting to know the person underneath.

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The three Duck Dynasty amigos (or amigas, more accurately), Wichita, KS

Save the costumes for Halloween

The last time I went trick-or-treating, I was in fourth grade. I think it was fourth grade. I dressed up as a clown, complete with the rainbow colored wig and big poofy pants and even the false nose. And I enjoyed myself thoroughly. There’s something fun—maybe even liberating—about dressing up and pretending to be somebody else.

Too much after that age, though, I think trick-or-treating is usually frowned upon. You get weird looks if you show up on somebody’s doorstep in a costume with a plastic bucket begging for candy.

Grown-ups don’t put on masks and costumes. At least, that’s the general supposition by the adult world. And I find that entirely ironic, because adults are better at wearing masks and costumes than any other demographic in the world.

The three Duck Dynasty amigos (or amigas, more accurately), Wichita, KS

The three Duck Dynasty amigos (or amigas, more accurately), Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I’m not sure where the desire to dress up as someone else comes from, but there’s something fun about it. Wearing clothes you wouldn’t normally wear. Acting in a way you wouldn’t normally act. I mean, give me a Jedi robe, and all of a sudden I want to get in a laser sword fight with somebody. That’s not a normal inclination for me to feel.

But practically speaking, outside of Halloween or fall festivals or whatever you want to call it, a lot more people get up in the mornings and put on costumes than you think. Most of them are adults, and they do it every day.

They wear clothes they don’t like to impress people. They paint their face up to present an image that doesn’t really exist. They force themselves to act in a way that’s inconsistent with their values or their personality. They’re playing a part.

Know anyone like that? Or maybe you’re that person.

Maybe it started out fun. You got to pretend that you were someone the world calls important. You got to become what the world calls successful or beautiful or accomplished. And that’s a good feeling for a little while. But even the most fun costume becomes a chore after you wear it for a long time. And what started out as being liberating turned into chains around your ankles.

Granted, just because you wear clothes you don’t enjoy doesn’t automatically mean that you’re wearing a mask or that you’re covering anything up. But the people I know who have to dive in to a hugely competitive job market or a truly aggressive corporate environment have to put on a face that isn’t their own. Otherwise, they’ll never succeed.

But if you spend too long wearing a mask, covering up who you really are, you run the risk of convincing yourself that you are that person.

So often we are dissatisfied with the way we look or our lack of talent in a particular area, and we do everything in our power to change it. And that’s not necessarily wrong. We should always try to improve ourselves. But when that desire to change comes from an internal motivation that we aren’t good enough the way we were made, that’s different.

I’m a firm believer that people need to be who they were created to be. We don’t need to change ourselves. We don’t need to pretend to be someone else. We don’t need to exchange our gifts for someone else’s. God made us exactly the way He wants us, and if we try to change that, we’re telling Him that He doesn’t know what He’s doing.

So what if you’re short? So what if you’re tall? Too skinny, too round, too light, too heavy, too this, too that. So what if you have a big nose or a double chin? So what if your shoes can double as tugboats?

Know what? God made you. Yes, you have a responsibility to be healthy. Yes, you have a responsibility to live the way God has said is right, which means being true to God’s Word. But none of that means you need to put on a mask in order for others to accept you. Your real friends and the people who matter will accept you for the person you are.

So just be you. And save your costumes for Halloween.

Scarlet Macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Weighing the heart behind your words

Have you ever said something you didn’t mean? I do it frequently–more frequently than I care to admit. Mostly that’s because I have a really sarcastic sense of humor, and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by so many people who understand me. And the know that most of the time when I’m shooting my mouth off, I’m not really serious about what I’m saying.

Don’t you find it interesting that there’s a perceived difference between what people say and what they actually mean? We live in a culture of sarcasm and wit, and I think sometimes we say things we don’t mean to get a laugh, to catch someone’s attention, to make a point. But what matters more? What you actually say or what you actually mean?

Scarlet Macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Scarlet Macaw at the Sedgwick County Zoo, Wichita, KS

Today’s verse is 1 Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

The Bible is pretty clear over and over again (not just in this Old Testament verse) that God looks at people in a different way than we do. What I love about this passage is that it deals with a human perspective versus God’s perspective.

God didn’t care that David’s brother was tall, dark, and handsome; he didn’t have the heart to be kind. Not like David.

God cares about the outside, sure. He’s as much responsible for the outside as He is for the inside. But because we can only experience what’s on the outside, that’s what we tend to judge by.

How does this person dress? How does this person speak? How does this person look? Suspect or clean shaven? Respectable or sketchy? We make judgment calls like that all the time, and in many cases those decisions are wise.

But when it comes to following God, it’s so much better to pay attention to the inside instead of the outside. Granted, we can’t see the inside. But God can. And that’s a sobering fact to remember.

Have you ever thought about the fact that maybe God isn’t listening to the words you actually say? What if He doesn’t care about what you actually say–they’re only words after all. And words are only as effective (or destructive) as the intention behind them.

How would your lifestyle change if you realized that you’d be judged on your intentions? If you were going to be held accountable not for your actions but for your purposes, what would our lives look like?

I don’t know about you, but I’d be in prison somewhere.

So what is the point of this? Well, it’s been shown over and over again throughout the Bible that God judges by the heart. And that means He knows our motivation and our purpose behind everything we say and do.

Does that make you think twice about what you were getting ready to do today?

The issue is this: in this life we are told we should be held accountable for the things we say, and I agree with that entirely. But there’s another step. There’s another problem than just not being held accountable for our words. God knows our thoughts, and we have to answer for our motivations and the state of our heart too.

Is your heart jealous? Is it hard and selfish? Is it hurt and lonely? Whatever state your heart is in right now, you can trust aren’t alone.

So the next time you think about what you’re going to say when you’re upset about something, stop for a moment and think about your thoughts. Think about why you want to say what you want to say, and you might find yourself shocked when you can’t find a reason.

Words are important. Words are essential and vital, powerful and immensely important. But what matters even more than the words themselves is your motivation for speaking them.

Have you ever eaten a koosh ball?

If you saw this at a grocery store, what would you think it was?

Rambutan

Some new koosh ball, right? Or a children’s toy? Or a decorative element for a new age dining set? Maybe Christmas ornaments or something to scrub your pots with?

Well, you’d be wrong. This is an image of rambutan. It’s a fruit. You peel back the outside layer and inside is a white fruit that tastes like green grapes. I had one the first time I went to Guatemala in 2007. I think they also grow in Southeast Asia.

But looking at it on the outside, you wouldn’t know it was fruit, would you?

I thought of this when I read today’s verse in 1 Samuel 16:7.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

God had sent Samuel to go annoint the new king of Israel, and he ended up at the house of Jesse. And Jesse trotted out his seven sons to let Samual choose from them, and Samuel kept going and going and going until he reached the end of them and none of them were the ones God had chosen. And Samuel didn’t understand.

The oldest seven sons Jesse had were tall and handsome and atheletic and strong. They would make a perfect king. So why was God rejecting all of them?

And this was God’s answer. He didn’t care what each of these boys had on the outside. What mattered to Him was what was on the inside. And when Samuel asked if these were all the sons Jesse had, Jesse admitted that the youngest son was out with the sheep and because he was the youngest, they hadn’t bothered to call him. So they brought the youngest son in, and Samuel knew right then that the youngest son was the one God wanted. The youngest son was named David.

So many times I think I am like Samuel. Since the outside is all I can see, I tend to make judgment calls based on what my eyes are telling me. But that’s wrong. Becuase people are more than what they look like.

Just like the rambutan fruit, someone may be strange looking on the outside but may be sweet on the inside. Many times peoples’ appearances contradict what is actually going on in their hearts, for better or for worse. And in either case, it’s not our job to judge them based on what they look like. It’s our job to love them because Jesus loves them and because God made them the way they are.

So the next time you catch yourself making a judgment call about someone you don’t understand or about someone who looks different than you do, think of the rambutan and remember that God doesn’t care what’s on the outside. God only cares about the heart. That’s all that matters to Him. So that’s all that should matter to us.