Looking good from a distance

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The trees appeared so beautiful -- too perfect.

They were in the distance -- layered in sequence -- flaunting their stunning colors. They seemed to say. "Look at me. Isn't God's handiwork marvelous?" I went along with their pretense.

The scenery was far away as my husband and I sped down the interstate on our way to Pennsylvania. I wondered how something so outstanding could be a work of nature -- God's artistry. I pondered how it would look if it were nearer. Would the landscape be so excellent, everything in its place with no ugliness in sight? Would the picture look so good if it were not viewed from afar? Were people the same when they were known from a distance?

I was so awe-struck by the breathtaking beauty and structure of what was so carefully created and positioned to make an indelible impression, I had to see what the scenery was like up close. As we drove near the trees, standing tall and majestic, I noticed there were flaws. The layers were staggered. The trees were not without fault. That seemingly unblemished bit of nature had its mistakes and imperfections, too -- just as people do. As I scrutinized the area I once believed to be without error, I found bare spots on the ground. Some of the foliage was broken and uneven. Leaves were partly crushed and broken. Up close, I caught a glimpse of the uneven layers that seemed to fall in excellent order from far away.

In spite of the imperfection of nature, it was still magnificent, even awesome. My mind strayed again to the picture people often paint. One isn't always what he seems to be on first contact. People usually desire to make a good impression on others when they first meet them. One puts his best foot forward and hopes to appear flawless. He hopes you'll like him and seek his company. Then as you become more familiar you discover that individual you held on a pedestal possesses flaws, too. You're disappointed, at first, because until you are close to an individual, you're unable to genuinely know him. You've viewed him from a distance. When you begin to fathom him more intimately is when friendships develop. Although someone can be amicable and helpful, he can't become a genuine friend until you've formed a bond.

Bonding occurs when you accept another with all his faults and imperfections.

Although a person can be beautiful and gracious on the outside, his demeanor and mannerisms often change when you know him more personally. You learn about his imperfections.

Rather than becoming disillusioned by the undesirable traits we see, try to understand why he is the way he is. What created the bare spots you see now? What is the reason for his brokenness? Why are his, now-exposed layers uneven, like those trees anchored in apparent perfection.

You change your attitude when you become someone's friend. Rather than feeling repulsed by someone's faults, his weaknesses can be what draw you together.

What's worthwhile is often hidden until it's uncovered by someone who loves you. Until you show others what's underneath your outer facade people can only perceive you from a distance. Remember few people climb fences and enter forbidden places.

Jesus is our role model. He showed his weaknesses without fear or embarrassment. He wept when Lazarus died and showed fear and rejection before his crucifixion saying. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Mark 15:34. He showed his bare spots up close.

What will others discover when they view you up close instead of from a distance. Do you dare to let them see what's in your personal space?

Ellen Shuck holds degrees in psychology, religious education and spiritual direction and provides spiritual direction to people at her office.

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