My wife and I went to see a new movie the other night called Get Low. Robert Duvall plays a hermit who everyone in town knows about and tells stories about, but no one really knows. Everyone is scared of him and most think he is just short of evil. But nobody actually knows him. Until he throws a funeral party. While he’s still alive. Originally he wants to hear everyone’s stories about him, but eventually he decides to tell one of his own.
I’m also reading “In The Sanctuary of Outcasts” by …, which is about a man who goes to a prison which is also a federal medical center where people with Hansen’s disease are quarantined. Hansen’s disease is what used to be known as leprosy. He is so judgmental towards them when he arrives. He avoids them, thinking that he and his family can survive a year of prison but not a lifetime of illness if he gets sick. Throughout the book, he begins to get to know them as individuals, as people, rather than defining them by their disease.
So between the two, I’ve really had my attention focused on the story behind what’s obvious. Each person we look at we try to put in a box quickly, grouping them with other people we’ve known like them. We define them by their looks, their color, their interests, their talents, their job, their denomination, their beliefs, their place in life. But rarely do we take the time to see the whole story of who they are. We live at too fast a pace to hear someone’s whole story.
My wife has an amazing gift of drawing out people’s stories. People just talk to her. I don’t have that gift. But I’m learning. I’m starting to recognize that the hateful person with the vicious tongue has a story in which they’ve been hurt deeply and it’s much safer for them to strike first. I’m realizing that there are deeper, more important questions about the homeless beggar on the corner other than whether or not he’s going to spend the money I give him on alcohol. He has a story, a life. I’m seeing that the 85-year-old lady next door has more stories than I could possibly imagine and has lived long enough that now she has no one to tell them to.
“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 sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
I hope I can start looking on the heart. I pray you can too.
4 thoughts on “Getting Low”
When I first walked into the rooms of recovery back in July 2007, I expected a bunch of “addicts”. You know the kind. Dirty. Thin. Sunken eyes. I prejudged every single person before even laying eyes on them! God removed my prejudging filter and I saw people. Just like me. Yup, just like me. People I would have never spoken to. People I would have crossed the street to avoid. Are now my best friends.
God has softened my heart. I DON’T know what kind of day a person has had. I try to be more objective. I don’t know when the next person I meet may listen to my story & decide to get clean.
Recovery & reconnecting with God has been such a blessing in my life. I’m going to be back in TX for 2 weeks over Christmas & I may try to join your little group one Monday night. My daughter lives in Austin & my dad is out in Kingsland. Besides I want to meet Ashley A. “Met” her through a tweet of yours a couple of weeks ago. Keep on rockin’.
Thanks, Todd, for writing this blog. All of us need to be reminded to see people through God’s eyes. We really miss out on many fascinating stories when we get distracted by the outward appearance of a person and dismiss them as unworthy of our time and attention. And for the person who is deemed unworthy, it is difficult and hurtful to be treated that way. It can be a very lonely existence to go through life misunderstood and unknown and invisible. What a difference it makes when a person sees you through “heavenly” glasses, straight through to your soul, and celebrates the real person inside who is made in God’s image. When a real heart-to-heart connection is made, when you listen with curiosity to the stories that form us, then the true value of a person shines through. It brings healing to both the person being sought and the person who is seeking to understand another’s story.
To see all things through God’s eyes, what a glorious thought!
Thanks for the thoughts Todd!
I know this is one area where I struggle as well. As I continue to grow in the Spirit our Lord has begun to remove the scales so that I can see, I feel I am less judgmental and have begun to see things through His eyes more and more each day. But like you I too still find myself allowing those thoughts to seep in and it is a struggle not to put those oh to easy barriers up, and not approach those individuals who are “different” who as you put it “have stories”. I pray that all of us could continue to remove the barriers that this world continually tells us to put up, to not to talk to, or care for, or look at them. That it is their fault they are like that or that they made their bed now let them lie lay in it. I pray for strength for all of us to approach them and to listen to their stories, and maybe, just maybe we could tell ours, or more importantly have the opportunity to share the greatest story of all with them!
Your brother in Christ
“We live at too fast a pace to hear someone’s whole story.” I think this is often true. I think that often we run on “auto-pilot,” not slowing down to get to know people, to listen to them, to share with them or value them, or even to be in touch with or value our own feelings and thoughts and stories. We often don’t realize life as we go through our routines, packing in as much as we can so that there is little time to reflect or notice others. And then when we do take time to notice others, we have the problem that “each person we look at we try to put in a box quickly, grouping them with other people we’ve known like them. We define them by their looks, their color, their interests, their talents, their job, their denomination, their beliefs, their place in life.” Some of this “grouping” isn’t negative, it does help us guess at how to begin to relate. For example, if someone is a child, we will speak in less complex words, or if someone is wearing somethink that makes us guess their interests, we can strike up a conversation about it. It is a problem if we just put someone in a box and judge them negatively without learning any more about them. It can also be a big problem if we put someone in a box that has something we fear. Many of us need to learn how to over come our fears and trust God to take care of us as we reach out to people, as your example of the hermit suggests. I don’t think it is possible to get to know everyone’s story who we see and meet each day, but it is possible to try and realize their value. Yesterday morning I drove down a busy street and there was an elderly gentleman walking his dog. He kept waving “hello” at all the cars going by. I waved back, thinking that he seemed to care about all of the people in the vehicles. I think he has grasped some of the value God sees in each and every person, and acted onwhat he saw. Growing up I was taught to try and see Jesus in everyone, and I think seeing people’s heart and realizing they have worth is how it is done. In India, people greet each other saying “Namaste,” which can be translated as “I see and respect the lord in you.” I think this is what we need to do, see the Lord in each other. Thank you for writing this, Todd. It is important to be reminded to try to see beyond the surface, into the value of the heart and soul of each person. Namaste.