“Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7b)
Ladies, have you ever been barely out of bed and had a man come into your bedroom accompanied by twenty-five children? That’s what happened to me the other day, in a Twenty-first Century sort of way…
I had been up for a while and done a few things, but those did not yet include washing my face, putting on makeup, combing my hair, or getting dressed. At that hour of the morning I looked like something that had crawled out from under a rock, but who cared? Nobody was coming over, and Marty was working in the basement.
The ringer of my cell phone was still turned off, but I heard a vibration and looked to see who it was. I was a little surprised to see the name of Joseph Nsereko, a man in Uganda who runs an orphanage I support. How did he get my number? I wondered.
I wasn’t going to answer it. Part of me thought, I haven’t prayed yet this morning, and I don’t want to get sidetracked already. But another small voice said, Hey, how often do you get to talk to someone in Uganda? The second voice won out, and I answered it, holding the phone up to my ear.
“Hello?” I said.
“Miss Annie!” Came a cheerful voice with a delightful African accent. I could hear the voices of little children in the background. Aww… I thought. How precious! This is going to be fun…
“Miss Annie, we can’t see you!”
Can’t see me? I thought, confused. Without thinking, I looked at the phone and realized (a split second too late to do anything about it) this was a video chat!
I saw two things on the screen – a smiling African man surrounded by adorable children in the sunshine of a Ugandan afternoon. And I saw another, smaller image in the corner – the face of a disheveled woman, hair a mess, no makeup, Dollar Store glasses perched on her nose.
Several things went through my mind at that moment. The first was how mortified I was. The second was the thought, I hope I’m not scaring any of these children! At the same time I was remembering that I had recently asked the Lord to deal with my vanity. OK, I guess He’s doing that… Dang.
The children didn’t seem frightened, so that was good. Some of them looked a little amused, but oh well. Joseph said “We have been having so much fun with the balls you sent. The children have been playing all day.” Sure enough, a couple of the kids were holding up the soccer balls I had sent, all smiles. I smiled too.
After a few minutes of conversation Joseph said, “We are going to pray now.” OK, I thought, and waited for him to say something. After an awkward pause, I asked, “Are you going to pray, or would you like me to?” As no one was saying anything, I went ahead and prayed for all the children’s needs to be met, and that they would keep having fun playing soccer – enjoying exercise, fresh air, and fun, and learning teamwork and sportsmanship. Joseph thanked me again, and as we said goodbye, he said “We love you!” and I’m sure I heard some smaller voices echoing, “WE LOVE YOU!”
I hung up and sighed. Oh well, I thought as I looked in the mirror and cringed. Thanks, God, You are dealing with my vanity. – Then I quickly “did my face,” brushed my hair, and changed from my ratty pajamas into something nicer. I checked the mirror and thought, Now I look almost human. (I guess He’s still got some work to do.)
Our culture puts so much emphasis on what a person looks like, and the advent of social media and the “selfie” has only made things worse. People, even Christians, can get caught up in the How-do-I-look? mindset, and I’m as guilty as anyone.
But God, Who created our bodies and everything good in them, doesn’t see appearances as the key issue. Most of us are familiar with the words God spoke to Samuel when he had come to anoint the future King of Israel. Now as it turned out, David, a “man after God’s own heart,” happened to be extremely good-looking, too, but if anything, his looks added to his trouble down the road, as he achieved the ancient version of rock-star status.
In contrast, Jesus had this said about Him by the prophet Isaiah:
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53: 2b)
As a First Century Jewish Carpenter, the Lord was apparently a pretty ordinary-looking Man. (Looks can be deceiving!)
It’s now a few days after my early morning surprise video call. My vanity hasn’t been entirely cured. I still wear makeup. – In fact I now make a point of putting it on earlier in the day than I was doing before! But something has blessed me that took a day or two to sink in, and that’s the last thing those dear people said to me: “Good-bye, Miss Annie! We love you!”
They love me!
… They LOVE me! They don’t care that they saw a face they could fertilize their garden with. They just knew, here was a lady in America who cared about them and sent them some soccer balls so they could have some fun.
These kids don’t have tablets or smart phones or video games. If and when there’s food and it’s time to eat, they wave their bowls in the air and cheer, as though someone just scored the winning touchdown. There’s a sweetness and innocence that’s sadly rare in our culture. In them I see the face of God, and through the clamor of the looks-oriented culture of our day, I hear His voice:
It doesn’t matter. I love you.