Wednesday, July 31, 2013

An Examination of the Heart

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, 
for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. 
People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 
1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Growing up I was known as one of the little Biwer girls. It’s true, I was little for my size - always one of the shortest in my class and on the basketball court. And friend, perhaps you too have been defined by your size or looks. Will you join me as we discover our identity is not based on our appearance?

It has taken me years to understand this truth and at times I still fail and find myself defining who I am by the person I see in the mirror. How about you, who do you see when you look in the mirror? All too often the person I see is not the one God does. No, sometimes I still see “the little Biwer girl”, the one who thought she was too small and too weak to ever be good enough. The girl, who as a teenager was mistaken for a boy on the junior high basketball team. The child who looked at every one else and knew they were more beautiful than her.

Early on my walk of faith, I heard the phrase, “Broken and Beautiful,” but for a long time I felt I could only relate to the broken part. I could ask myself, "Who Am I?" "Broken!" Yes, that answer made sense! I've had a broken heart, broken dreams, broken relationships... You get the idea; I have been broken. Simply said, I've felt no good, incomplete, not good enough; sometimes these feelings resulted because of what was done to me and others because of things I'd done myself. The answer, broken, came as no surprise.

But it's the last word in the phrase that is hard to type as an answer to our question. "Who Am I?" "Beautiful." Honestly, the response I've mentally given to that statement for years is "yeah right, look at me!!"

I'm sure you'd agree, I had issues with my looks. But honestly this isn't a past tense struggle, I still do. God showed me the importance of dealing with this a few years ago, when my then almost 5 year old little girl sincerely said to me, "I’m not pretty." Like every Mom, I know my child is the cutest, but still her words hurt.

Especially the ones that followed my "yes you are" response; without a beat, my little Joy said, "you're just saying that." Honestly my heart broke because I knew how she felt, in my mind I'd probably said the same thing to my husband that very day. God directed me to speak His truth to her and as I did, He challenged me to believe it for myself!

And now, for the first time ever, I will say it: I am beautiful. It's hard for me to believe I just typed those words, but I'm finally at a place where it's harder not to believe God's Word.

Please read it for yourself -
“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

Samuel is in the process of anointing the next king when he hears these words. The LORD has sent him to Jesse and instructed him to anoint one of his sons as king. So he arrives and sees Eliab, the first born son. One we can assume was the biggest and strongest, the natural leader, an obvious choice for king, but the Lord says otherwise.

Let us look a bit deeper at the words Samuel hears, “Do not consider his appearance or his height.” Doesn't this contradict the message of society? The nearest magazine or next television commercial will tell you and me who we are is how we look. The world often quickly determines our worth based on our appearance. When we are surrounded by this it can be easy to develop the same way of thinking and label ourselves as the little one, the big one or the ugly one.

So let’s go back to the verse, “The LORD does not look at things people look at.” Take a minute and think about this, what do people look at? Better yet, what do you look at? Take a minute and go to a mirror, what do you see? Hair that’s a mess, teeth that are crooked or a nose that’s too big?

I don’t know what you saw, but there were things I didn’t like. Physical traits that have bothered me and wrongly defined me for years. Some that I could improve, others that will never change, but all part of my outward appearance. The side people see. The side that is important, needs to be addressed and is part of who I am, but the side that all too often is our focus, but never God’s.

Remember what the Lord looks at, He looks at the heart. Isn’t it interesting to think He looks at the thing that no one else can see? Granted this verse isn’t referring to the beating organ in our chest, but what Samuel is being reminded of is God knows our thoughts and intentions. He sees past our good looks and nice smiles all the while overlooking the extra pounds and crooked teeth, the One who makes our heart beat understands the motives of our heart.

Perhaps we should do another exercise…this time we don’t need a mirror, but instead I encourage you to bow your head in prayer. Close your eyes, remember God doesn’t look at the outer appearance, and ask God to look at you and tell you what and who He sees.

If you’re not sure how to begin, pray the words of Psalm 26, “Test me Lord and try me, examine my heart and my mind.” Be still and listen to what He has to say. Take time and write down what He whispers to your heart.

Perhaps this exercise is just as difficult as looking in the mirror, maybe even more painful as we pause long enough to be convicted, but friend remember there is purpose in the pain. God convicts us of things to make us better, to help us change and become who He made us to be.

Friend, I’ll be honest the report the great physician gave me didn’t make me feel real good. I heard things like: sometimes I look at you and see selfishness, other times it’s laziness and there are moments when I see one who’s too quick to doubt. Not exactly the happy, uplifting little exercise I expected.

A couple of days have passed since I first wrote about the heart exam and God is continuing His work. Initially the findings He revealed hurt. I wanted to plug my ears and pretend I couldn’t hear what God was saying.

Those strategies didn’t work, so instead I kept seeking Him and looking for wisdom. Like the faithful Father He is, He responded with words to comfort my soul. Jill, if you want to know who you are, you need to know who I see. In the same way you put on a mask or make-up to hide your face from the world at times you do that with your heart as well. You may deny yourself of reality, but I know, I see your heart. Before you can really see the beauty I created when I made you, you must allow me access to the ugly. Remember only I can take what is broken and make it beautiful. Let me change you from the inside out. 

Friend perhaps this exercise hasn’t affected you the way it has me, but I want to share a bit more. Looking in the mirror has never been on the top of my to-do list and this heart examination has helped me understand why. Granted growing up, I never really thought about God thinking I was beautiful. But since accepting Christ as my savior and digging into God’s word, I know He thinks I am.

Knowing this and living like it is true are two different things. Reading Psalm 45:11, “Let the king be enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord,” didn’t serve as a magic pill. I knew this truth, but still avoided the mirror.

Deep down I now believe 1 Samuel 16:7 had something to do with it. Knowing the LORD looks at the heart impacts me and if you’re honest I’d have to guess you’d say the same. Though we can hide our outer blemishes and inner struggles from others, we too know our heart. When we deny God access and keep Him from examining our heart, the ugly that is there is something we see in the mirror.

So friend, I encourage you to constantly be in prayer and ask God to examine your heart. It’s something you might not want to do, but it’s what we need to do. Though we can’t see our inside, knowing God does, can impact the way we see ourselves.

Now you might be thinking what good is it going to do me to allow God to examine my heart and reveal the ugly to me? I look in the mirror and do that myself already. I understand this thinking, that’s exactly why I wanted to avoid this examination. Believe me I didn’t want to make you or myself feel worse.

So before you close this page, I want you to think with me a bit about pearls. Chances are you’d like to put a string of them around your neck and look in the mirror; they are beautiful and something of value. But let me remind you, a pearl is a finished product. A pearl is something that is created inside a mollusk, an oyster shell which is not the finest thing to look at.

Some might say the shell around the pearl is ugly, but as time passes and the pearl is created we are left with a thing of beauty. Friend the same is true of our heart, a heart God created, sees and knows.

He isn’t a Father who just sees all of our faults (He does), but He also knows the good. Psalm 139 is one we’ve heard often, but it’s one worth revisiting now. Take a look at verses 13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Friend all His works are wonderful, that means you and me. Let’s stop and ask our question once again, “Who Am I?” Perhaps we’ve given an answer that is based on our appearance, the face we see in a mirror, but I pray as you’ve worked through this post you realize that’s not an answer God gives.

He wants us to look inward, just like He does, and realize beauty begins in the heart. 1 Peter 3:3,4 tells us, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.”

In God’s eyes, beauty is not something we see in the mirror or add on as an accessory, it comes from within. Proverbs 31 tells us beauty is fleeting, but the inner beauty Peter is talking about doesn’t fade away. Actually friend, time adds to this beauty.

Let’s commit to asking God who we are, pledge to believe what He says and allow Him to examine our heart. This process will help us see who He sees and thus become who He created us to be. We might still be little (or big), but we are beautiful when our heart is pure, our motives are right and our character is like Christ.

Friends, these words come from a project God has put on my heart and I'd love any feedback you have to offer. I'm so thankful for the insight you share and the connections God has created here. Blessings to you!

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Jill! I can so relate. I grew up tall and developed as a girl early. Different details, same scenario. Teasing was tough and as I grew up I received much unwanted attention from men. I also grew up believing that my worth was based on my weight. I was never obese, just had a rather strict mother that didn't want me to experience obesity. I was dying inside most of my life, wanting to be loved for my heart, not looks. There was a point I couldn't look in the mirror if I put on even 5 pounds. Over the years, because I didn't have Christ, I grew to loathe myself.

    Not since I found Christ! Like you say, it is a daily thing, but it isn't as hard to say I am beautiful. I love what you said here: Some might say the shell around the pearl is ugly, but as time passes and the pearl is created we are left with a thing of beauty. Friend the same is true of our heart, a heart God created, sees and knows.

    Nothing in God's world is ugly. He doesn't make junk. Thank you beautiful lady!

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    1. Tristine, thank you for taking the time to read this long post and then follow up with words from your heart! Truly they have blessed me and always a good reminder to know we are not alone! Blessings to you!

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