The Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. -1Samuel 16:7
God knew who Samuel should anoint as the next king. But Samuel was having a hard time figuring out who it was. He knew he was in the right place, meeting the sons of the right family, and so he assumed right off that Eliab, the big, strong handsome oldest son of Jesse, must be the one. But God said to Samuel, "Nope, not him. I don't see what you see." Jesse then introduced him to all his sons, one after another. Abinadab seemed like a hopeful choice, but God said that he was not the right one either. Surely, then, big strong Shammah would fit the bill? But God was still not satisfied.
Samuel was puzzled - if not these obviously capable young men, then who? "Are these all of your sons?" Samuel asked. Jesse answered, "Well, no, I do have one more - the youngest one - but he's out watching the sheep where he belongs." Samuel said they would not sit down together until young David was brought before him, probably much to Jesse and his older sons' surprise. And sure enough - as soon as David entered, Samuel knew he was the one that God was after. David was young, small and ruddy cheeked from being out in the fields. And Samuel, right there and then, anointed him the next king.
This wonderful story reminds me each time I read it that just like Samuel the wise man, I too am a poor judge of character. Like most of us, I see what I see - and I have biases, often believe my first impressions, and am blinded by my judgements or expectations of someone else. It is only when I take time to get down to the heart level with someone that I can ever really see them more as they truly are. Unfortunately, in this busy life, it is a rare thing to take the time to get to that heart level with someone.
So this story presents a great Lenten opportunity. I invite you to take some time this week to sit down with a loved one or a new friend and really talk. Get to the heart level. Let them know what's really going on with you and ask them what's really going on for them. Seek things you share. Try to look past your biases, expectations or first impressions. Take time this week to receive someone as the beloved child of God that they are. And then come to church on Sunday and tell me about how that went!