Looking Beyond the Surface

A few years ago my department at work went thru many changes. One of those changes was bringing on a number of consultants to work with us on a large project. They are all a great group of people to work with, but in the beginning there was one man in particular that really bothered me. In my dealings with him (which were few) he seemed to be condescending (both to me and our clients) and he could be rude and inconsiderate. I wondered more than once why he had even been hired... an hour on a conference call with him would make me want to pull my hair out!

However, just because I didn't care for him didn't mean that I didn't have to work with him. At times this proved difficult, but I hung in there.. finally reaching the point where I was determined to make it work even though I was convinced that he was the one with the problem (never once thinking that my perception might be "off").

Over time, I have found that what my intial opinion is actually not true at all. He is very knowledgeable about his job and how to get it done, he has a great sense of humor, and our clients really like him and respect him. Totally different than what I thought initially, huh?

You see, I failed to recognize several factors early on when I first began to work with him. The project we were working on was high stress with long hours and unreasonable deadlines. And, the time that I actually spent working with him amounted to maybe one conference call a week and a few emails here and there... hardly enough to really be able to determine what a person is really like, right? Plus, how many of us react in a negative manner during times of high stress and long work hours? Any one of these things could have make the best of persons react in a negative manner at times.

I was discussing this with my husband earlier this week and telling him how wrong I had been in my initial feelings. How I felt that I should have been alot more open to the situation from the beginning... maybe "giving him a break" due to the nature of the project at the time. Maybe being more open to the fact that management did make a good call when hiring him even if I couldn't figure out why.

As we talked I remembered something that our pastor had shared with us in church on Sunday. He has been preaching a series of sermons on the Apostle Paul. In looking at the life of Paul, he shared the following that was in a 'Dear Abby' column on December 19, 1981. It is a great reminder of how we so often only look at the surface, the labels, and not the person. It is a great reminder of how we should look at people more like God might.

DEAR ABBY: One of the toughest tasks a church faces is choosing a good minister. A member of an official board undergoing this painful process finally lost patience. He'd watched the Pastoral Relations Committee reject applicant after applicant for some fault, alleged or otherwise. It was time for a bit of soul-searching on the part of the committee. So he stood up and read a letter purporting to be from another applicant.

"Gentlemen: Understanding your pulpit is vacant, I should like to apply for the position. I have many qualifications... I've been a preacher with much success and also some success as a writer. Some say I'm a good organizer. I've been a leader most places I've been.

"I'm over 50 year of age. I have never preached in one place for more than three years. In some places I have left town after my work has caused riots and disturbances. I must admit I have been in jail three or four times, but not because of any real wrongdoing. My health is not too good, though I still get a great deal done. The churches I have preached in have been small, though located in several large cities. I've not got along well with religious leaders in towns where I have preached. In fact, some have threatened me and even attacked me physically. I am not too good at keeping records. I have been known to forget whom I have baptized.

"However, if you can use me, I shall do my best for you."

The board member looked over the committee. "Well, what do you think? Shall we call him?"

The good church folks were aghast. Call an unhealthy, trouble-making, absent-minded ex-jailbird? Was the board member crazy? Who signed that application? Who had such colossal nerve?

The board member eyed them all keenly before he answered. "It's signed, 'The Apostle Paul.'"

(AUTHOR UNKNOWN Submitted by the Rev C. W. Kirkpatrick, Ludlow, Mass.)

5 Thoughts Shared:

Kristi said...

I have goosebumps all over! Thank you for sharing this today. Blessings to yoU!

Sab said...

Ooh! I LOVE that letter! Too awesome! SOmetimes it is difficult to really look past the surface and see the person. I think it is because, as people, we don't like to feel threatened/condescended etc (don't know if that is a word, but I'm sure you know what I mean). It is HARD.

But yeah, when you look at the apostles... their 'recommendations' weren't something that any of us would 'want' in our churches initially. Funny how that works.

Karen said...

That was really good. Thanks!

LisaShaw said...

Thanks for sharing this with us Melanie. Wow! Lots to take from this dear sister.

Love you.

Tammy said...

It is always amazing to see how God works through those difficult places in our lives and helps us to see the error of our way. I know too often I have looked through my own eyes instead of through the eyes of the Lord. He does not look at the outward appearance but the heart...