The Beauty In Another

When I was in my twenties, life worked for me. I set goals and accomplished them. I dreamed dreams, and they came to fruition. I had a plan.  I held myself to a super-human standard and my only plan of action for failure was to push myself harder so that it didn’t happen again. And even that seemed to work.

I remember being drawn to an anecdote I’d read about Theodore Roosevelt’s plan for self-improvement. He created a list of character traits he wanted to embody and each week he focused on perfecting one of them. A slip-up in any area only meant, like playing a game of Super Mario Brothers, he couldn’t advance to working on the next trait.

I liked this idea. In fact, I likened it to Christianity. Holiness, the way I’d constructed it, was the ultimate self-improvement plan. And my responsibility was to be like God.

The first sign of decay forming around this plan may have been the way I saw people around me, even those closest to me. I analyzed their actions with what I’d convinced myself was the “biblical” lens for holiness and became an expert on their subtle failings and (what I deemed to be) ungodly idiosyncrasies.

Although I now know it grieved God to witness the way I viewed other people, I sometimes wonder if even a greater grief for Him was the thwarted lens through which I viewed myself, His child. Because my judgment wasn’t discriminatory. It was all-inclusive.

But judgment wasn’t the root of my issue, it was the bi-product of a heart starved for the Father’s love. At that time, it was easier for me to follow a Teddy Roosevelt-like plan for studying scripture, and holding myself and others to the tenets of scripture, than it was to surrender to the notion of a God who could engulf me with a dangerous love.

Love was (and is) messy. Unpredictable. And for it to be fully released, it required exposure. Rule-following, under the guise of godliness, is much safer.

But what I didn’t realize then was that what I believed was fear of God was actually fear of … everything but God. Fear of failure. Fear of other people’s impressions of me. Fear of not making an impact.  Fear of being exposed for what I really was.

Fast forward about 10 years (and a dozen or more thwarted plans, face-plants and major life slip-ups) and I have a changed heart. No, I have a changing heart. His dangerous love caught up with me. And wouldn’t you know, it outran my self-constructed godliness.

And one of the most noticeable ways it’s showing up lately is in the way I see other people.  He’s starting to give me His eyes for them. Instead of seeing what might be the obvious flaw in another, I’m finding the beauty behind it. Searching out the sin and error pales in comparison to finding His unique touch in someone. His fingerprints are all over His created ones. His beauty is infused in His children. And I want to find it.

I want to be an expert in my husband’s strengths. I want to fill the pages of a book with the ways I delight in my children. I want to champion my friends’ passions. I want to see redemption in the face of the broken. On the tip of my tongue, I want words of life for those around me.

Everything in me resists this. I am still a critic by nature  (I used to spend hours “evaluating” my ministry functions after-the-fact).  At the end of the day, I could so easily let my mind dance around where my children have failed and what my husband has forgotten to do. The enemy in my flesh opposes the beauty of God, on every level.

But one of the new things creeping up in 2010, this year to fall in love, is an intimate knowledge of how My Father delights in me. And although I might have expected that to come first–before any shift in the way I see others–that new window into the beauty in another has been His entrance into receiving a new understanding of His beauty in me.

I asked Him for His eyes for other people. I started in my home, with my children and my husband. And after I got over the shock of what He showed me – their strengths instead of their weaknesses, their God-given beauty instead of their blemishes, their charm – I started to think … maybe He sees me this way?

And this is what’s changing my life.

Just one drop of the authentic love of the Father makes me want to run from fear and sin. But being like Him in His love can only come after getting His eyes–for others, and (yes) for me.