Though I was born and raised in Dallas and have only been in Kenya full-time for a little over three years, it is home for me in large part because I gave up my apartment, car, and furniture to move there.
When I come back to this “home,” I stay with my parents in my childhood bedroom, and only have regular access to a racing bike. The living arrangement isn’t bad, but the lack of means to get around often reduces an otherwise mature 34 year-old to a begging and pleading teenager. Can I borrow your car? Can you pick me up at the mall? I can only go out if you can pick me up and drop me off? You get the idea. Many generous family members and friends, who are aware of my back and forth lifestyle, offer me use of their cars when they can, probably in an effort to help me retain my dignity.
Because I happily use what is offered, I have driven a wide variety of cars in the last few years. In 2012, my sister and I pulled up to a church for a fundraising and sponsor recruitment event in a fancy, new Lexus, offered by a dear friend and Ndoto supporter who let us use it while she was out of town. We joked about people looking at us getting in and out of the car and suggesting maybe we don’t need the money after all.
This trip home, a neighbor allowed to me to use an older car that has been sitting in her driveway for some time. It is Chrysler Sebring convertible!! I’ve never driven a convertible before, and it would be mine to use as needed for a month! It was exciting for me and incredibly generous of her. It is a bit beat up with a few character-building traits, we’ll call them. One part of the steering wheel is perpetually greasy, the air conditioner doesn’t work except on the highest setting and due to noise often forces a choice between the AC and the radio. The transmission is in need of work, makes noise, and feels like it might fall out of the car at any time. Yet, for the last couple of weeks, it has been mine. It has gotten me from A to B, my hair blowing in the wind, and recently was the center of an important lesson.
I was at a swanky shopping center in our area recently, and as I was walking to the car after running errands when I happened to hear a few girls making fun of it. As they climbed into their luxury car they were speaking derogatorily about the person who drives such a car. Their words struck me, and I found myself wanting to chase after them and yell at them about being shallow and rude. As I unlocked the car though, I got lost in thought about the things we judge with only a quick glance.
These girls judged a car and a type of person based on a glance. I wonder what they would say if they knew the truth. I wonder what they would say if they knew this car is about to be sold or donated, because the owner has a new one. I wonder what they would think if they knew it was at this mall, because the owner allowed a missionary visiting home to borrow it because she sold hers. I wonder at their response if they knew this car was allowing me to take care of the work of raising money and running an organization that helps nearly 300 kids go to school. How would the comments be different if they knew that this car is a small piece in a much larger story of God’s provision for bringing more than a thousand people around the world together for a common goal?
After realizing I was staring off into space with the key in the ignition for several minutes, the slow spread of conviction worked its way through my heart. How often am I guilty of the same things? How often are we? How many times are we guilty of judging others based on a glance at the “outside” of a person or event?
I confess, I am guilty of judging someone by how they look. I am guilty of judging people who live in certain houses or drive certain cars and assuming I know “their kind.” I am guilty of assigning motives when someone does something I don’t like.
1 Samuel 16:7b, challenged me with the reminder, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance. The Lord looks at the heart.”
Let’s become a “new” kind of person. A person who assumes everyone is growing in his own way. A stranger who looks on and knows there’s more to the story. A friend whose go-to response is grace. Let’s be “this” type of person and teach our kids that, too. Because I think we can all agree, things are rarely as they seem.