Inside Out

Recently, while walking a hiking trail I noticed it narrowed for a footbridge ahead. It was a beautiful day and it felt good to be going at a nice, steady pace. As the path narrowed I came up behind four women who were talking, laughing, and were totally engrossed in their foursome. They were spread out, four abreast, and covered the total width of the path. Most notably, they were going very SLOW. They were oblivious that others were behind them. They were in their own world and there was no way to pass unless they moved to the side. It is amazing how many questions and thoughts can run through the mind at times like this. “They don’t look any older than my age, so why are they going so slow?” “Are they that out of shape?” “Why are they so self absorbed that they don’t realize that people are behind them wanting to pass?” “This is rude to hold other people up just because they want to continue their chatting.” The path finally widened and allowed the backup to pass. Going around the friendly group I noticed that one of the women had a hat on. Her head was bald. These friends were loving and caring for their friend who had obviously gone through some serious medical treatments. It took less than five seconds for me to get my heart and perspective back in line. What I was seeing from my outside world didn’t align with what was going on in their inside world.

This situation has made me think of other times in my life when I have made quick judgments about others. I thought I had the answers for the misbehaving child only to realize minutes later that the parents were dealing with an autistic son. It has been easy to pass judgment on a broken marriage because I thought I had all the facts, but didn’t. There have times when people have made poor decisions in my opinion and I have been quick to draw a conclusion. I found out later that there was information which I did not have. What I saw on the outside was not the whole picture. Sadly, not only did I assume what I thought was the truth; but even more damaging, I passed it on to others.

Judgments are often made without knowing what is really going on inside the person, couple, family, situation or problem. God sees and knows it all. We cannot; however, we play God when we evaluate people with our limitations. Our questions can be damaging–What are their motives? What are they thinking? Do they regret what they have done? Have they asked forgiveness and repented? These questions and assumptions enter dangerous territory. We don’t know what has been tried to set things straight with God or with others. Judgments regarding others’ motives and actions is sad and sometimes tragic. This presumption leads to condemnation and can create despair for those in its path. Sadly, in families and with people we love we spend a lot of time thinking we know what is going on in the inside and in the places we cannot see. Sadly, we play God.

Unfortunately, my experience on the walking trail will not be the last time I make a quick judgment but it has made me more aware of extending grace to others. I have noticed it when I read the newspaper, see a grumpy customer in a store or drive a car in crazy traffic. More importantly, it has made me slow down and ask The Lord to give me His eyes to see people. No matter how well I think I know a person I don’t know what’s really going on inside him or her. New eyes of compassion and grace are more important than my stamp of approval or disapproval on others. This perspective will allow me to walk all kinds of paths with more tolerance when someone’s taking up my space.

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV)


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