I judge books by their cover. I honestly do. My daughter and I have conversations about what we like a book to look like. We show each other when we find a treasure. I’m drawn to soft, beautifully illustrated covers with the edges of the pages uneven as if torn. If it’s a paperback and it’s suede-soft, all the better. A ribbon to mark my spot or an elastic band to keep it shut? Love it! I do eventually read the synopsis of the book before checking it out or purchasing it. I sometimes wonder how often I’ve overlooked a great read by doing this judging?
Today I was working with a group of people, I quietly read the faces and demeanor of people to gauge moods. I focused intently on one person who was usually quiet and a little stand-offish. Even in times past. This person, who avoided eye contact with our group, was at ease with the younger crowd. I decided to just avoid this person, complete my tasks and go home.
Time passed quickly . I was finishing up last minute tasks when I found myself alone with the Quiet one. (I’ll refer to the person as Quiet from here on out). I wasn’t offering up any conversation, so I was shocked when Quiet asked if my youngest child had graduated. I mumbled the standard “no” response and went on to explain that she’s at her third school due to severe anxiety. (I give more information than necessary when asked about my daughter because I try to head off the usual response that is given, which is that anxiety is part of teenage life.) Do you know what Quiet said to me? Looking right into my eyes, Quiet stated, “I UNDERSTAND”.
Right away I was tracking ahead to what I’d say to defend my answer. The severe nature of the anxiety and how it’s not just some standard worrying. But instead I felt my heart soften into the mom-gooeyness it can achieve as I listened. Quiet went on to tell me about the young adult Quiet has that has crippling anxiety, sharing a few stories so I could grasp that it was truly crippling anxiety. Quiet spoke of what the family had done to help the child be successful. To get the young adult where they are today, just two months shy of graduating college. The right medicines, counseling and support had lead the child to this awesome place!
I had misjudged this book. I felt ashamed before God, as I thought of the times I’d tell my own children not to judge people. “You never know what’s going on in their lives”, I tell them often. I believe as Christians we should consider this when dealing with others. Yet here I was thinking somehow I was superior and able and right in judging this person.
I thought of how long I’d known Quiet. How many times I might have missed out on the blessing of conversation with someone who understood the road we were on.
The times I might have been an encouragement to Quiet instead of a judgmental fool. To judge me would have been to say I did not reflect the love of Jesus.
When we finished our conversation, I made sure Quiet knew that I was sad that they had the same struggles, yet grateful for a listening ear and great ideas from someone who understood. I felt a certain bond now, as one does when someone shares similar paths. I made sure to say I was always available to listen!
As I thanked Quiet again, I couldn’t help but notice that I now saw a softer, happier person. A person who had struggles just as I do. This change in appearance wasn’t a physical change in Quiet’s face and demeanor, but rather a change in the way I now viewed Quiet. Through the eyes of Jesus.
As I sat in my car on this warm winter day, I confessed to God how sorry I was for judging. Wrongfully so too! I committed myself to only judging books, NOT people!
And as it is with the great I Am, forgiveness flowed immediately over me, like the warmth of the sun on this fine spring-like day.
***Time was limited but I wanted to get this written and sent out while I was inspired. I’ll check later for errors in grammar! Hope it’s not too bad ;-)