It started with the work we were having done upon our home. My brother agreed to do two small extra jobs in addition to the big work on the porch: change out a ceiling fan and put in a new light fixture. We told him we had the ceiling fan on hand, bought three or four years ago. We really liked the fan. 42 inches wide for a good breeze, 3 lights to amp up the wattage in the room, classic look, oil rubbed bronze finish.
So when he was done we walked into the room and there was a cheap white, one bulb, globe light shade, 22 inch fan. What?! "That's what was in the box," he said. New, never been opened, right there in the box for three years or so. We don't even remember where we bought it. The only thing I am certain of is that we likely bought it at a clearance price, because that's how we normally look for upgrades for our home. We were determined to look on the bright side. Even this fan, though not what we thought it might be, is better than the old wobbly fan we took down. And it is paid for. That's the silver lining of that bit.
Take Two. John wanted some chips and I offered to make dip to go with them. We'd just bought sour cream this past grocery day. I opened the container and there was what was obviously fat free sour cream. I could tell by the texture and appearance. I looked at the container and it plainly said "Natural Sour Cream" but nowhere did it mention fat free. I looked again at the cream in the container and tasted it and I'm telling you it was definitely fat free. It tasted fine, but it wasn't what I thought I was getting.
Most recently there was the day I planted what were marked as cosmos seeds, with a picture and all. I planted them and now have the prettiest pink petunias you've ever seen...but not cosmos!
Now none of these incidents are major, but it got me thinking. I met a woman who had a lovely smile, a peaceful countenance, bright clothing combined in a way that proclaimed her a creative person. She drives a very nice car. Her husband mentioned his job several times and it's obvious they are well to do. I ticked off my boxes when I first met her: obviously secure in her life, both financially and emotionally, probably hadn't a care in the world. Her package was completely telling her story...or so I believed for many months.
We sat down together one afternoon and I expected the same sort of casual nothing sort of conversation we'd always had. She spoke of how difficult her week had been. Her son was going through a very tough divorce. He and his ex to be were having great struggles that were hurting them, their children and many others. That was bad enough, right?
Then she shared that her only other child was in prison, had been for a number off and on for years because of drug charges. She had had a difficult visitation that week that left her emotionally drained and wounded. She spoke of how hard it was to have her grandchildren in foster care. She mentioned that she had seen her counselor later in the week but found no solace for the heartache she had felt keenly.
Obviously my picture of her was as flawed as my idea of what ceiling fan we'd purchased or what type of sour cream I'd picked up or which seeds I was planting. The appearance on the outside was one thing. What was in her package was another entirely. The woman I thought had it together was breaking apart on the inside and turned to me, a practical stranger because she had no where else to unburden her heart.
I'm guilty of this too often, comparing what others have or appear to have, how they look on the outside to myself and assuming their lives are bliss and mine is lacking. It's a lesson I never quite seem to grasp though God has shown me this over and over again. I pray one day I just look at a person and see them for what they are: average hurting human beings who are in desperate need for a place to unburden, for someone to lift them up in prayer until they get over these hurdles that make them feel they are all alone in their trials. It's not what the package looks like on the outside. It's what's inside that will come out and prove the package all wrong isn't it? It's not what I can see but what I can't.
Lord, open my eyes, open my heart to see beyond the outside.