1 Samuel 16:7 – But the Lord said to Samuel, "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (NRSV)
In January of this year, I was encouraged by my doctor to get more exercise, so I joined the community recreation centre. I have been swimming three times a week, and incidentally, am enjoying the many benefits of regular physical activity.
However, swimming pools are remarkable places. I notice that a great many of the things that distinguish us from one another are left off the pool deck. Few people wear jewellery. If hair isn't slicked-back-wet, it is under a bathing cap — neither of which is an arrangement to appreciate one's cut, colour, or style. There are no regular clothes either, and the bathing suits we wear have to be mostly functional and tend to be rather plain. Add goggles and nose clips, and people barely resemble their everyday selves.
If we were to judge each other on appearance, many of the regular categories we might use are not applicable at the pool, except for body shape. At the poolside, bulges and sags and wrinkles and rolls are all remarkably visible.
I will confess my discomfort with such an environment. With my young, svelte, lifeguarding days long since gone, it is unnerving to be in a place that so openly exposes physical inadequacies. It is a place where I take comfort in God's word to Samuel in today's Scripture: "The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."
God, it seems, understands the world differently than we do. Where we might see inadequacy because of things like addiction or poverty or mental illness or ethnicity or just our general outward appearance, God sees potential. God sees greatness that is simply undiscovered. God sees not just people to love, but people to choose for important service. God sees into hearts and minds, and in doing so, God sees gifts and possibilities.
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You look into our hearts and our minds. Help us to look into the hearts of others, that we all might discover our gifts and possibilities for serving You. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.