Samuel looked at Eliab and thought, That must be the Lord’s anointed right in front. But the Lord said to Samuel, “Have no regard for his appearance or stature, because I haven’t selected him. God doesn’t look at things like humans do. Humans see only what is visible to the eyes, but the Lord sees into the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:6-7 (CEB)
Maybe you’ve seen the doodle that illustrates why we should be gentle with people: A long horizontal line represents someone’s entire life. Then there’s a bracket covering the last eighth of the line, labeled “what you know about” their life. In other words, next to nothing.
In South Africa they say, “everyone sits beside their own pool of tears,” meaning that we all carry some pain, the oppressed and their oppressors alike, the ones who seem to have it all together no less than the hot messes.
And still we are quick to judge, reluctant to forgive, afraid to reconcile, and often anything but gentle.
Exhibit A: The prophet Samuel’s divine mission to anoint King Saul’s successor.
No sooner has God explained that the Lover of All doesn’t care about the physical package than the narrator tells us how good-looking God’s chosen one is, a young shepherd named David.
To know the human heart is no easy feat. To understand someone takes time. To accept another requires looking beneath their behavior to see the pain or fear that drives it. To make way for healing and empowerment, we must pay attention with eyes of love.
As this new year begins, may we see one another as God does: heart to heart.
Develop in me your heart-centered vision, that I might know all people as beloved.
Vicki Kemper is the Pastor of First Congregational, UCC, of Amherst, Massachusetts.