We were walking along a track, beside a remote Scottish loch (lake), miles from the nearest road. Far from civilisation we saw no-one and the only sounds that could be heard were the birds singing and trees being felled in the forest a few miles away. It was idyllic. After several miles, at the end of the path, we came across a shepherd’s cottage, tumbledown and forsaken. I thought how lovely it would be to spend a summer there, undisturbed by the world, and maybe write a novel set in this beautiful cottage in the middle of nowhere.
I peered into the windows and withdrew in shock. Inside the cottage there were a couple of cheap plastic chairs, an old sofa, dirty mugs and several empty whisky bottles. Someone lived there, at least some of the time; obviously their lifestyle was somewhat dubious and they might appear at any moment! This wouldn’t fit into the romantic novel that was beginning to form in my mind.
As we all tend to do without even realising I had judged from the outside, but the inside was totally different – dirty, squalid and threatening. What we might try to show to the world – perhaps a face which is presentable, clean living, successful, able to cope in adversity, being a ‘good Christian’, having a perfect family and so on – could be a mask. Whilst this may fool others, it cannot fool God. He knows what is going on inside. He knows about the real me, the pain, the struggles, the hopes and fears. But the good news is that He loves me in spite of this, and amazingly He can use me anyway. When we come to Him in prayer He knows already, so there’s no point in hiding things from Him.
There’s also a challenge here. If God knows what goes on I need to make sure I let Him change me from the inside out, so that what’s inside becomes beautiful and godly. Then gradually the inner beauty will surface on the outside. This seems to me to be a better state of play than being beautiful on the outside and rotten on the inside!
Prayer: Lord, thank You that You see the heart. Take me and make me beautiful on the inside. Work in me so people can see Your love and Your grace through me. When I look at others give me the discernment to see the work You’re doing in their lives. Help me to look deeper and forgive me for the times when I’ve only looked on the outside and made wrong judgements. Amen.
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