The seven year old in front of me stared at me, open-mouthed.
“No! I don’t look like my Dad. I’m not bald!”
The lad’s mom stopped by to pick up a few music accessories. I couldn’t help it. The young boy stood there playing with his Nintendo (“It’s a DS. Don’t you have one?”), and I looked down at his winsome face, wearing his new glasses and concentrating on beating his current level, and I saw his father.
“Did anyone ever tell you how much you look like your Dad?”
The shock was genuine. He couldn’t believe how naive this old person was. Couldn’t I see that he had all his hair?
How could he look like his dad if he had all his hair?
The more he looked at me with that surprised look on his face, the more he looked like his father. I started to explain, but he was already back to his game, oblivious to my confusion.
That’s funny. I don’t remember his dad being bald.
How is it that the young man and I see such different things when we look at his dad?
I see a mischievous twinkle in his eye and a quick smile, partially what I noticed in the boy’s face today.
He sees a head without hair on top and sides shaved to match.
We’re both right.
We’re both wrong.
At least, we are if we think what we see is the whole picture. The danger of focusing on one attribute of a person is that we almost always pigeon-hole him into a certain category–a category which cannot ever fully describe the person.
We see what we want and no more.
There is none so blind as he who will not see.
I mentioned a shared acquaintance to a customer the other day. I wanted to talk about musical talent. He wanted to talk about ancient history.
“Why would you even have anything to do with that tweaker?” (A tweaker is the common description for one who is addicted to methamphetamine.)
I stopped short. It took a moment. Then, the light dawned. I do remember a time when there were rumors that the man used drugs.
I thought carefully about my answer. “He described himself to me with different words. His words were believer and follower of Jesus. He talks about grace, too.”
My friend hemmed and hawed a little, but he kept coming back to the drug issue. It was all he could see when he looked at the other man.
Tunnel vision is a kind of blindness.
There is none so blind . . .
There is a man I know who has led an exemplary life, his complete life given to service and ministry. Well, almost complete. A few years ago, I learned about a moral failing in his life. I was disappointed.
Still today, when his name comes up, I can’t think of anything but the morality issue. Seven decades of his life are as if they never happened. One sin, one failure, defines him in my mind, and it will forever. Or, so it seems to me.
Am I so different than my customer with the long memory?
Tunnel vision is blindness.
There is none . . .
I hear the pharisees–those hypocrites–whispering already, their voices repeating the mantra again and again, until it is all they know.
Guilty in one part, guilty in all. There can be no argument. It is in the Book.
Once used drugs? It’s who he is forever. Tweaker!
Served faithfully for a lifetime, but stumbled at the end? All of his life is erased and the label of adulterer replaces the title of servant.
Suddenly, a new label jumps to mind–one which hangs about my own neck.
Pharisee–arrogant, boastful judge of others. Not those hypocrites.
Me. This hypocrite.
I wonder if I’m the only one?
No, I suppose not.
I know of at least one customer and one young man who share my problem (although we could probably overlook the boy’s error). There may be one or two more who will read these words and hear in them a familiar note.
I wonder though…
Suddenly–as suddenly as that personal label, the one hanging around my own neck, came to me–the light shines brilliantly into the darkness I’ve created.
To label myself is no different than labeling others. Good or bad, the label is applied to just one part, one tiny segment, of who the person is.
With our bad eyesight, we can never see the whole person. Not without corrective lenses. Or, better yet, not without surgery.
I’m struggling with the application of this truth tonight. I want to pound home the lesson, but it hurts too much personally.
I do remember that there is One who sees the whole person–the secret parts, too–while we see only the obvious, public image. I remember too, that He gave sight to the blind.
That’s me. Blind.
I wonder if He’s still any good at restoring sight.
Can I leave you to find your way to the end of this subject yourself?
You see, it would only be a blind man leading blind people, so I think it’s only prudent.
We wouldn’t want to waste the evening in a ditch, would we?
“How many colors are there in a field of grass to the crawling baby unaware of ‘green’?”
(Stan Brakhage ~ American filmmaker ~ 1933-2003)
“Hear this, you foolish and senseless people, who have eyes but do not see, who have ears but do not hear.”
(Jeremiah 5:20 ~ NIV)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.