On Monday, my daughter and I decided to make use of part of our afternoon by washing Tracy's car and my car. We had fun doing it together. She decided that she really liked washing the tires and would focus her efforts there. She also really liked using the hose to squirt the soap off of the car. We had fun making rainbows with the spray.
The problem is that I get a little obsessed when I wash cars. I can spend hours washing, finding spots that are not clean enough and re-washing, using just water on the inside of the door frames and the thresholds, getting up inside the wheel wells and trying to get the inside of the rims. By the time I am done, I usually have cuts and scrapes and bruises all over my hands (yes, I recognize how pathetic that is, but your hands get soft when you spend most of your life in an office). Although I didn't go that crazy on Monday (I didn't have time, I had promised that we would bake and decorate a cake, too), ultimately my daughter got bored and went inside after we finished Tracy's car. So, I washed my car by myself.
Although I don't take the time all that often, I really like having clean cars. I like the way they shine and look so much better when they are clean. I feel like it is a statement of some sort. I feel like everyone sees it. I don't really worry about the inside. I mean, sure, I pick up the big pieces of trash and clean up spills and stuff like that. But I don't get much enjoyment out of vacuuming, cleaning the leather, washing the windows, using the Armor All, etc. It is not very often that anybody sees the inside of our cars anyway. Usually the only people that ride in them are family and other kids - they have already seen the mess and probably helped to make it.
In church recently we have been studying David. And, coincidentally (or maybe not, who knows), in my reading time before work I have been reading First and Second Samuel (actually, I am now in First Kings). In any event, over the last few weeks I have read and thought about the following passage from First Samuel multiple times. For people that may not be familiar with it, let me set the scene a little bit. God has sent Samuel to see Jesse in Bethlehem and to anoint one of Jesse's sons to be king. Samuel fears for his life, but listens to the Lord and goes (there is another post in there). When he arrives in Bethlehem and meets Jesse and his sons, he sees Eliab first. Immediately Samuel thinks "Surely the Lord's anointed one stands here before the Lord." 1 Samuel 16:6 (NIV). I admit that I do not know much about Eliab other than what it says right here, but Samuel obviously was impressed and thought that he looked like a good king.
"But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not consider his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.'" 1 Samuel 16:7 (NIV).
I'm sure the analogy is pretty obvious (and that most people reading this saw it coming a long time ago). The way that I clean cars is seeing things the way that man sees things. It is a lot easier to focus on the things that man looks at than it is to focus on the things that God looks at. Rather than struggling to make real change of the heart, we can just try to cover it up. We can focus on keeping up a good public appearance.
It works the other way, too. Just like Samuel, it is easy to get distracted by the shiny things, the outward appearances. We tend to make a quick judgment of someone or something based on what man looks at. Just as God corrected Samuel, I think that God challenges us to look beyond what we see. I think that God desires that we learn to avoid becoming distracted by the outward appearance and to look at the heart instead.
There is a song recorded by Brandon Heath called "Give Me Your Eyes." There is a lot of great thoughts in the song, but part of the chorus really plays into what I am focused on this morning:
Give me your eyes for just one second
Give me your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me your love for humanity
If only we could learn to see with God's eyes and to see as God sees. And if everyone saw as God sees, maybe we would spend more time working on the inside than we spend working on the outside. Just think of how much everything would be different.