July 13, 2015

Considering Appearances

Devotion for the Week...

I will be 38 on Thursday. While I don't consider myself old, I do realize that is a matter of opinion. After all, Aiden, when he was about 5, once asked me if we used feather pens when I was in school! Then, when he was about 9 or 10, he made reference to something that had happened "way back in the 1900s." Way to make a mom feel young, right? On the other hand, about a month ago we had lunch with an 87-year-old retired pastor, who said 70 looks pretty young from his vantage point.

There is no denying that getting old is not easy. Our bodies start to wear out. Parts creak and ache and refuse to do the jobs they used to so easily do. The mind isn't immune to problems as we age, either, and 'senior moments' plague lots of people. Unfortunately, though, while our culture is obsessed with youth, our collective obsession has little to do with function and much more to do with appearance. Grey hair and wrinkles are to be covered up or erased at all costs.The anti-aging industry is big business.

The June 29, 2015 issue of Time magazine featured a cover article titled "Nip. Tuck. Or Else," by Joel Stein, which I found very interesting. The article talks about how plastic surgery has become so much more commonplace in recent years, to the point where those who don't renovate themselves in some way will soon be in the minority. Many people are not actually using surgical methods to change their appearance, but instead using less invasive treatments like Botox to hide any possible sign of aging.

The fact that our culture is obsessed with pretending to stay forever young is nothing new. But it does make me wonder at what point our refusal to show our age becomes a problem. "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).

To give you a little context, Samuel has come to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as the next king of Israel. He sees the first son, Eliab, and immediately thinks this is the one God intends to have become king, but God quickly sets Samuel straight. "Do not consider his appearance or his height," God says. I think it's interesting that the Bible doesn't actually tell us what Eliab looks like. I think it's safe to assume he was good looking and tall, but there's no description of him given. What he looked like was irrelevant, because his heart wasn't right.

So, how are our hearts? Do we spend time making sure they look good to God? Time in prayer and reading the Bible are good ways to take care of our hearts. Applying God's word to our attitudes and actions will make our hearts right too, as will confessing any wrongs we have done. Mostly, though, I think that God is looking for people who rely on Him. Having accepted Christ as our Savior and trying our best to live out His commands through His power in us will give us hearts that please our God.

I don't think there's anything wrong with taking care of our bodies, of course, or with trying to look our best. In fact, just before Samuel is told to anoint Jesse's son David as the future king, we are told, "He was glowing with health and had a fine appearance and handsome features" (v. 12). Obviously God has nothing against a person who looks good.

As in so many other areas of life, though, it's a matter of balance. Where are we putting our focus? What is our primary concern? If we are spending the bulk of our time (and money) focused on our outward appearance, then what does that say about our hearts?  What does it say about our relationship with God if we are focused on something He doesn't care about?

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