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.