It was a case of mistaken identity, and it happened when a man who fixes blocked drains came to our house.
Our plumbing was terminally congested, and my combined efforts with prayer and a plunger were to no avail. This came as no surprise – my DIY gifts are extremely limited. Whenever I attempt household repairs, our family moves into a time of intercessory screaming. So, I called a drain clearance company.
Ron ‘The Drain Man’ arrived in his van. I met him on our driveway and shared the unpleasant details of our problem. He assured me that he would lift a manhole in our garden and resolve the issue in a jiffy. I thanked him, returned to the house and jumped into the shower. Two minutes later, Ron decided that he needed a little more detail about the plumbing layout of our home, and rang our doorbell.
My wife, Kay, answered the door. Kay is just four years my junior but looks considerably younger. Ron took one look her and uttered words that bought unbridled joy to her heart: “Can you please tell your dad that I need a word?”
Kay is unendingly kind. She decided not to correct Ron’s mistake and risk embarrassing him, so she called up the stairs. “Daaaaaad! Can you come down and talk to Ron?”
First glances can be deceiving. I know this from bitter experience, having planted my foot squarely in my mouth when rushing to conclusions. Like the time when I spotted Sue arriving for Sunday morning church. Sue was pregnant, or so I thought. In the final few weeks of her confinement, she’d become quite gigantic. “Morning, Sue,” I smiled, and noticing her undiminished girth, asked: “So, no baby yet?” She smiled warmly, another example of beautiful kindness, and nodded at the pram I’d failed to notice. “I had the baby last Tuesday,” she said, pointing to the bundle. “It’s just that I’m still this…” Big, I was about to say, but thought better of it, my brain having finally caught up with my mouth. “I’m so sorry, Sue…what a beautiful boy,” I stammered, praying that the infant was indeed a male of the species. I had staggered into this gaff because of first glance presumption.
Ron the Drain Man and I share the same malady. We took a quick look and, all too quickly, opened our mouths. But there is a subtler, yet terribly toxic temptation that awaits us all: we take a first glance and, in an instant, close our minds. Or worse still, we close our hearts. Scientists say that humans form impressions of others after less than one-tenth of a second. If they’re right, we decide at lightning speed if someone we meet is attractive, authentic, competent or worthy of our time.
Spotting that aggressive looking soul who has chosen to tattoo his body with profanities, we declare him a thug, and dangerous with it. And what of that picky, irritating person who asks endless questions at the church business meeting? He’s surely trouble, a threat to our unity – or so the minister thinks.
Jesus saw people. A weeping widow from Nain passed by and we read that Jesus saw her, and his heart went out to her (Luke 7). He saw people when they were at their worst. In the midst of hot denials with curses, Peter suddenly felt eyes upon him. Luke tells us: “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter” (22:61). This was no passing glance, but a look of total knowing and yet total love and commitment.
Jesus goes beyond the first glance. Let’s be like him.