Judging Covers

Living on a canal affords us magnificent views of the sunrise, sunset, moonrise, and the neighbors’ back yards. Think “Rear Window,” the iconic Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly thriller. In that movie, Stewart is confined to a wheelchair after an injury, and spends hours watching his neighbors from his apartment’s rear window. He witnesses what he realizes is the murder of one of them, and the disposal of her remains by her guilty husband. If you have never seen this movie, find it today if you enjoy Hitchcock mysteries. Or just to watch Grace Kelly, who is nothing less than ethereal in this film.

But here in Colington, I have only observed the mundane things of water living; neighbors and their kids swimming off their docks, people enjoying the sunshine on their decks, a lot of waterfowl, lots of fishing, and early morning crabbers going out in their boats to check their traps. On Wednesdays I see sailboats circling in the harbor for the weekly community sail out to the sound. One time I watched an aggressive osprey fight with a large eel that kept slipping out of its talons. The osprey almost dropped it on my head as it victoriously flew over my deck back to its nest to feed the family. That surely would have caused me to list my house immediately, views or no views.

The fronts of our houses face the water, so when you travel along the streets of Colington, you are actually looking at the rather plain backs of houses. I remember taking my Mom on a boat ride on the canals and she exclaimed, “Oh, the houses are so pretty! I never realized I’ve been looking at the back of the houses all this time!” Indeed, the fancy decks and staircases, the covered porches, and the tiki bars that people have constructed all face the water. It’s like the houses have turned their backs on the street in order to face the prettier view themselves.

There is a saying that comes to mind: Never judge a book by its cover. This is just a reminder to us to look deeper and don’t make assumptions about books, houses, and especially people.

There was a time when a man named Samuel was sent to select the next king of Israel. When he looked at the fine young men standing before him, all of them Jesse’s sons, he naturally selected the biggest and most handsome one, but God said no. He continued down the line, and each time God rejected the obvious selection:

1 Samuel 16:7 New International Version (NIV)

7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Finally, the smallest son was called from the field where he had been tending sheep. This one, the runt of the litter, was the one whom God chose. His name was David, and he became one of Israel’s greatest kings.

The Lord looks at the heart. People focus on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks inward.

What can we glean from this today? Is there someone in your life who needs and deserves a deeper look? Are you guilty of making snap judgements about people you meet, based solely on their appearance? Where is God calling you to take a second look, and this time to look at the heart?

I met an elderly lady once in the lobby of a very fine restaurant. We were surrounded by all sorts of people, nationalities, and ages. The younger ones were tattooed, as most younger ones are today. Within the first three minutes of meeting this woman, she expressed outrage at all the girls and their tattoos. I live on the Outer Banks and don’t even SEE tattoos on people anymore. It’s wearable art. Everybody has at least one. This lady was dressed to the nines, but would have been highly offended if someone had criticized her choice of scarves and fake pearls. She would have wanted people to see the real her. So do the tattooed girls.

Take a look around you. The down-and-out person might be just the one Christ is calling you to befriend. The uppity church lady wearing too much perfume might be shielding a life of loneliness and heartache. The frantic, hassled guy at the gas pump might have just been told his wife is dying of cancer. The rude teenager might be having suicidal thoughts.

Look deeper. Ignore the wrapper. Be like Jesus and look into the HEART. What is on the outside is just window dressing, but what is inside is a real human, deserving of your kindness and consideration. That tattooed girl just might be royalty under all that ink. After all, she is the daughter of the King.

This tattoo is on the arm of a girl with a heart of gold.

Snap Judgement

In Malcolm Gladwell’s marvelous book Blink, he shares a story of a statue sold to the Getty Museum for ten million dollars. The museum spent fourteen months authenticating the statue. It met every standard of a sixth century BC kourous, a Greek statue of a nude boy standing with his left foot forward and his hands to his side. Less than 200 kouroi exist today, and most are in very poor condition.

The statue went on display and a group of museum experts from around the world were invited to the opening. Suddenly, there was a problem. It didn’t “look right” to some of the guests. An Italian art historian who served on the Getty’s board of trustees, a foremost expert on Greek sculpture, and the former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York all agreed that something was “off” with the sculpture.

It was sent to Athens for further authentication, and immediately experts there had the same reaction. George Despinis, the head of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, said that he thought it was a fake because when he first saw it, he felt an “intuitive repulsion.”

Further testing was done…it turned out that the statue was a fake.

Gladwell calls the ability to make a snap judgement “adaptive unconscious.” He points out that our intuitive response to things, and how we come to a conclusion with little information in the first seconds of seeing something, is a gift we have but don’t use. I bet you’ve been in a situation where a truth is finally revealed and your first thought was, “I KNEW something was wrong!” Yet for some reason, you diverted your mind away from seeing the reality in front of you. Adaptive unconscious is a God-given ability that we somehow don’t trust.

As God reminded Job, the gift of insight comes from God alone:

Job 38:35-38 Living Bible (TLB)

36 “Who gives intuition and instinct? 37-38 Who is wise enough to number all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven, when everything is dust and clods?”

And Paul encourages us to seek God’s gift of spiritual knowledge and insight:

Philippians 1 Living Bible (TLB)

9 My prayer for you is that you will overflow more and more with love for others, and at the same time keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight, 10 for I want you always to see clearly the difference between right and wrong, and to be inwardly clean, no one being able to criticize you from now until our Lord returns.

I think we see, and then don’t want to see, so we look away. I have done this. I saw signs and symptoms of a problem that didn’t immediately add up. My gut told me one thing, but I couldn’t see what I was seeing. I was manipulated into a state of unbelief until the truth was revealed, and I realized, “I KNEW something was wrong.” I wish I had trusted my adaptive unconscious response and allowed God to show me the truth sooner. It might have averted some genuine pain later.

I think God calls us to a higher knowledge. I think God equips us with a Holy Spirit-informed insight. I think we look away because it’s too painful to see what is right in front of us.

What is staring you in the face right now that you are refusing to see? Where is God sending you signals and signs of warning? What is the truth you refuse to acknowledge?

Allowing God to speak truth by the power of the Holy Spirit through your insight will enable you to clearly see the difference between right and wrong, and to be inwardly clean. So open your eyes. Open your mind. Keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and insight. And don’t blink.

Fall Moon by Mary Anne Mong Cramer.