Jul31WedJuly 31, 2019
Last week, I was asked by my doctor to wear a medical device for a few days which altered my physical appearance. When I did choose to get out in public, I did my best to hide the device…with varying degrees of success. There was part of me that did not want to ‘freak’ people out. There was part of me that didn’t want to be treated differently because of my outward appearance. And there was part of me which was simply embarrassed for prideful reasons. Fortunately, I was able to return the device on Thursday and return to ‘normal’ living. Many people, however, do not have this luxury. Scars, tooth loss, braces, oxygen tubes and many other appearance altering events happen to people all of the time. And some are born with even greater challenges!
When appearance altering moments come, it is tempting to believe that somehow our value has changed. We can easily fall into the trap of believing that “I’m only valuable, beautiful or significant if other people view me as valuable, beautiful or significant.” From my perspective, when these thoughts are embraced, a person either withdraws from society, walks around with a large amounts of self-deprecating shame or cries out for validation in very unhealthy ways. Fortunately, we serve a God who looks so much deeper. “The LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b).
For the Christian, we must continue to remind ourselves that our own perception of ourselves, and even how others perceive us, doesn’t really matter in comparison to how the Lord views us. Our true value and identity comes through Him - by faith in His son, Jesus. I would love for all of us to join the Apostle Paul in saying, “If I must boast, I will boast in the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30, emphasis added). He said this even though he been physically beaten several times, was endangered among both Jewish and Greek societies, often experienced sleepless nights, the pangs of hunger and (according to church tradition) was losing his eyesight. “For the sake of Christ,” he wrote, “I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9b-10). Oh to remember Paul’s faithful example when our various trials come!
However, it is also good for us to recall how the church in Galatia responded to Paul’s “bodily ailment” (whatever that was for him). For he wrote, “You did not scorn or despise me, but you received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus” (Galatians 4:14). He was praising their ability to welcome him as though they were welcoming Jesus himself. As our culture continues polarize around things like ethnicity, race, physical appearance, etc. people can easily feel rejected by others. But as Christians, we ought to be ones who see and treat people the way that Jesus does. We ought to be quick to welcome and care for people regardless of their appearance, social status or past history (see Matthew 25:35-40). Now honestly, I still struggle with this. Therefore, one of the prayers that I often pray is this: “Lord, help me to see them the way that you see them. Help me love them as if I am loving you.” As you interact with people this week, I encourage you to ask for Jesus’ eyes. He alone gives a person lasting value and He may use you to communicate that message a stranger who feels rejected.