Appearances

A few years ago, I did the unlikely improbable impossibility. That's descriptive, not redundant.

My military style of golf — left, right, left, right — is more akin to the parable of the lost coin than any other heroic story. So the hole-in-one came as a shock. In the hallway at home, there’s a photo of me gazing at the ball in disbelief. It really did happen — I have a witness willing to come forward should there be doubters. But to characterize my entire golfing experience by this one singularly sensational event would be grossly unfair. It would, in fact, be as inaccurate as … my golf swing.

My mother used to call with great concern in her voice.

“Are you all right?” she’d exclaim.

“Of course. Why?” I'd ask, a bit bewildered.

“I saw on the news that winds there have knocked down trees and the streets are all flooded,” she’d say, incredulous I would be so ignorant of the surrounding chaos. She found it hard to believe that local news crews had faithfully found two trees in town that had blown over and just one city block floundering under 6 inches of water. Truly, for those locations it was a disaster. But the apocalypse? No.

Recently on the way to Spokane, Wash., I squeezed into an airplane seat next to a Middle Eastern man. “I’m flying in from Iran,” he offered, while my terror alert went temporarily to orange. But, as we talked, I discovered he had been an American longer than I had. My synaptic response had been wide of the mark.

How easy it is to judge someone’s character, the impact of a storm or the true ability of a golfer by one point in time, by one narrow perspective. How easy it is to be dead wrong.

Jesus’ disciples learned this the hard way. In her book The Desire of Ages, Ellen White describes them as “anxious that Judas should become one of their number. He was of commanding appearance, a man of keen discernment and executive ability, and they commended him to Jesus as one who would greatly assist Him in His work” (p. 294).

Who among us would have thought differently? Nearly without exception we fulfill the scriptural observation that “man looks on the outward appearance.” And we are shocked when our external value judgments prove so often to be unfailingly fallible yardsticks of character.

The guy with the grumpy face turns out to be the sweetest person you’ve ever met. The person with the angelic smile is, behind the façade, a Judas at heart.

Teachers around the world, of course, have known this since the beginning of time. Wise educators know the roughest, toughest challenges often yield the highest rewards. They view their students through the Father’s eyes. And that makes all the difference.

Through the years, many of my instructors embodied this value. I just wish one of them had taught me how to play golf.

August 30, 2016 / Let's Talk
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