If you have ever made a conscious decision to look beyond the surface in someone's life, you know just how conscientious you have to be to not just stop at the "surface stuff" you observe with the eye, but to look deeper. It is easy to think you might get to know the "real" someone just because you see them act a certain way or say certain things. Truth is, we aren't really getting to know the "inner struggles" of a man or woman until we get beneath the surface. For some, the holidays were a tremendous time of reconnecting with family and making new memories. The homes were filled with laughter and lots of stories which added to the good times. For others, the holidays were kind of melancholy and lonely. The memories of yester-year were just not enough to bolster their enthusiasm for the holiday. Relationships had been lost, hearts were left open and hurting, and things just didn't ring with the same cheer as in years gone by. Still others seemed to enjoy it, but deep inside, something was missing, leaving a hole not really filled, needs not really met, and moments not fully realized. Surface-reads only tell us so much, don't they? Sometimes we just need to stop long enough to really recognize the heartache, reach out to the emptiness, and re-energize the weak. To do this, we have to look beyond the surface.
Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. (2 Corinthians 5:16-20 MSG)
Looking inside gives us a different perspective, doesn't it? Look out from any window in your home and what might you see? Other homes, some landscaping, a fence or two, some cars, a bird, a neighbor's cat - infinite possibilities because even what seems "normal and customary" changes on the "outside" doesn't it? Now, go outside your home and look inside through the same window. What do you observe from this side? If you stand back a ways, you might just see a reflection of some of those things you saw when looking out, right? Get closer and you begin to see rooms, hallways, furnishings, and even maybe a few people. Why are those people there? Isn't it because someone let them in? Why are those furnishings arranged as they are? Isn't it because it meets some need of those who have to make use of them? Truth is, we don't really know what is on the inside until we begin to get close enough to see more than a reflection of what is on the outside!
Try as I might, I cannot "convince" someone to change the way they are feeling, to fill the emptiness of their lives with something which really makes a difference, etc. I can set an example, but I cannot do the "convincing". You don't convince someone TO enter or change, but you do convince them that what awaits them presents a pretty convincing argument that they SHOULD enter or embrace change.
Too many times we look "inside" past the reflections we see on the outside and what we observe indicates to us someone needs something specific in their lives. We might even point it out. Like if we were to observe through the window of the house that the couch facing a direction which did not give a view of the TV without craning one's neck in an awkward position. We might try to convince them to move the couch, or to get rid of the couch and opt for two armchairs instead. Either way, it is not our part to convince them TO change, but we can show them the possibilities of what change might look like by presenting an example for them to see in the way we "arrange" and "live out" our own lives!
I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I got this wrong in my own life. I'd be looking INTO someone's life and then go about trying to rearrange their "furnishings" and fill their "space". Only God really has the right to do this in another's life. Admit it, we don't like it when someone actually does this to us, so why do we go about doing it in anyone else's life? Am I the only one who has ever interjected myself INTO someone else's "space" without specifically being "invited in"?
The purpose of anyone looking "inside" is to really begin to see another for who they are, as life has made them through the series of events and choices they have made over time. When we look "inside", we might just begin to see Christ at work within - rearranging what needs movement and has become stagnant or stale in their lives. Me might see him cleaning away years and years of "built up" dirt, giving a sense of freshness and purity. Maybe we observe him at work making places for others to enter in and to find a place of special purpose where other relationships left gaps or holes never refilled again. It is his work - we are only observers of his "life change".
I don't have many who I have really "let in" to see me as I am, but those who have done more than really only see a reflection of what is really on the outside have come to recognize it is Christ in me setting things right - convincing me of the need for life change. Others have been content to see the reflection of what is on the outside, never getting close enough to really look inside. I am okay with that, as long as they don't judge me by what they see on the surface, because sometimes I can present a pretty picture "out there", but I am pretty much a mess on the inside! To really get to know each other, we need both vantage points, but most importantly to see each other for what God is doing on the inside! Just sayin!