Ten Foot People

It’s a cynical viewpoint, is mine.

I suddenly realized that I have spent my life expecting the worst of people.  Maybe it hurts less that way.  If you don’t expect much, you won’t be surprised when you don’t get much. Lowered expectations.

The idea that people will always disappoint is one which grows with every instance of being let down by folks who appeared to be trustworthy.  But strangely, as the calamities keep coming, the cynicism grows until, one day, you wake up and find that you’re not really even disappointed anymore.  

“I knew something like this was going to happen,”  you mutter to yourself as the latest shining knight falls off of his steed.

Let’s see…maybe I can give you a for-instance.  Rather than talk about people, perhaps we can talk about old guitars…
The fellow called me a couple of weeks ago.  “Paul, I’ve got a great guitar from the seventies.  It’s a pretty desirable instrument.”

I talked with him a few minutes and got the particulars about the guitar; then I asked him to send some pictures to my phone.  The guitar looked great in the pictures – really great.  I wanted it!  I checked my resources and determined a fair price for this model in the condition he claimed it was in, a claim the photos seemed to confirm.  It was a fair amount of money.  He said he’d bring the guitar right down.

The guitar that he carried in turned out to be a very different instrument than either his description or his photos promised.  A can or two of spray paint had ruined the value for me, while he was actually proud of his cover-ups, believing that they enhanced the aesthetic value.  I cut my offer in half, much as he had cut the value of the vintage instrument in half by his amateurish bumbling.  He took my money and left, not quite as happy as he had been when he first came in.
“It’s a pretty good ten-foot guitar, Paul.”  The guitar player stood near my counter the next day.

He had stepped to the wall, where the monstrosity hung, just moments before.  It took him mere seconds to recognize what had been done to the guitar.  Stepping back again, he sought to console me in my disappointment.

“From ten feet away, it looks just fine.”

I wasn’t mollified.  The guitar will never again be a desirable collectible. 

So it is with people.  Again and again, I get close enough to find that the finish isn’t genuine, the veneer simply a cover-up for the ugliness that lies inside.  Do you want to know a particularly nasty secret?  The same thing will happen to you if you get close enough to me.  I know the stench of rottenness inside, the ugly inner me.  What you see is the spray paint and the make-shift cover-up I have in place to make myself more acceptable to you.  But, don’t get too close! 
Maybe the ten-foot rule should be in effect.  Hmmm…no disappointment, no surprises.  Don’t approach, don’t examine, don’t touch.

Nothing to see here!  Move along!

But, let me turn a corner here.

I’m finding, the longer I walk through this life, that people aren’t like guitars.  Well, except for the occasional chance resemblance, that is.  You see, a guitar, once ruined, is ruined for the rest of its days.  Not so with humans.  Oh, I’ll grant that some will never recover.  Many don’t wish to live any differently.  But I firmly believe in grace, in new beginnings, even in deathbed conversions.  That last option is not one I would recommend, because it precludes the opportunity to demonstrate what grace accomplishes when lived out.  That said, grace is still grace, at whatever point in life it touches us.

I am not a cynic, although sometimes life conspires to convert me into one.

I am a believer in the power of love to change men’s hearts.

Grace reaches through the thickest of coverings to bring the soul to the light of day.  My guitar-painting friend might think the result ugly.  All the scars and pain of a lifetime are laid open to public view.  And, you know, the truth is not always pretty, is not always pleasing to the eye.  I’m fairly certain though, that in the honest wear which is left when the facade is stripped away, we can see the original beauty, in which our Creator intended us to walk all the days of our lives.

I like the idea of living in elevated anticipation.  It sure beats lowered expectations.  You see, I know – am absolutely sure – that it is possible to make a ten-foot wall hanger into an approachable, touchable human being. It starts with grace.  
Come to think about it, it ends with grace too.  
So, put away that can of spray paint!  Those painful scars and old injuries?  They’re just good, honest wear, and they’re much more beautiful than any cover-up we could improvise.
Time to get closer.  
“Then the lion said – but I don’t know if it spoke – You will have to let me undress you.  I was afraid of his claw, I can tell you, but I was pretty nearly desperate now.  So I just lay flat down on my back to let him do it.”
(Eustace Grubb~”Voyage of the Dawn Treader”~C.S.Lewis~English author/educator~1898-1963)
“Therefore, if anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation:  old things are passed away; behold, everything has become new.”
(2 Corinthians 5:17~KJV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved. 
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