Learning to See


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 96; 147:1-11, 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Acts 10:1-16, Luke 24:13-35

“[F]or the LORD does not see as mortals see;
they look on the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks on the heart.”
– 1 Samuel 16:7b

An entire movie genre features attractive yet shallow young people learning to appreciate the inner beauty of their less attractive peers. The beautiful person usually doesn’t admit to themselves how they have fallen in love with someone who is – by Hollywood standards – not quite as beautiful (and very likely someone they have previously tormented) until after a dramatic makeover montage reveals hitherto concealed physical beauty.

What would happen without the makeover? Would the handsome jock remain in denial about his feelings for the nerdy writer who never discovered the right conditioner for her split ends? Would the popular cheerleader continue to friend-zone the bespectacled mathlete who otherwise won her heart?

Not that beautiful people deserve all the blame. The plain Janes and Jims in these movies aren’t falling over themselves to date average looking people. It’s still a real statement for a film to explore romance between two ordinary-looking (or – gasp! – slightly unattractive) people. And it’s not limited to romance. Action, science fiction, and horror movies often use the shorthand of physical appearance to indicate who the heroes and villains are.

As a culture we buy into these ideas. When we don’t like someone, we are much more likely to comment negatively on their looks or the way they dress – especially if they’re women – though it’s entirely irrelevant. Conversely, when we feel kindly toward someone, we are disposed to more favorably rate their appearance.

How do we learn to see as God sees? Maybe the trick is to love first, and see second. Psalm 139 says God knit and loved our inmost selves in the womb. Is it possible for us, limited by mortal understanding as we are, to decide to love people before we meet or even see them? First impressions may be visual, but we can control our first expressions toward someone. When the holy in us deliberately chooses to greet the holy in others, the scales of judgment fall from our eyes.

Additional Reading:
For thoughts on today’s passage from Acts, see Double Vision.
For more on Luke’s resurrection story, see Risen and Recognized.

Comfort: God knows your inmost self.

Challenge: The next time you are tempted to comment on someone’s appearance, ask yourself why you think it would appropriate to do so.

Prayer: Bless me, O LORD, maker of heaven and earth, of body and soul. Amen.

Discussion: How does getting to know someone’s inner life affect how you perceive their outer appearance?

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