Behind the Outside

The outside can be remarkably deceiving.

Life is filled with questions of “What do you do?” and “What do you want to be?” and “Where do you see yourself in (insert number of years here)?” And all of those relate to and are most commonly asked concerning jobs and outward performance—ourselves are most defined, in culture and probably in most of our own eyes, as what we do and how we present ourselves.

We look at everything on the outside, a lot of times even in self-assessment, to determine our value.

What is being done? How do I measure up? Am I Good Enough? Do I even come close to these other people?

We have created for ourselves worth that is established through the lens of what we believe our output to be. We have made our productivity value equivocal to that of machines and industry, but we are not machines or industry—we are people.

Everyone looks some way or another on the outside, and we overtly proclaim that profession and appearance are not the exclusive determinants of value, but then we turn around and attempt to make ourselves seem as put together as possible—not letting anyone see the messes behind our performance.

The outside is never the whole story—it is usually not even a quarter of the story, frankly. It is so minimal in its exposure of the inner person.

Our comparisons grow and grow—jealousy becomes nearly impossible to dissuade from our psyche when someone appears better than us in an “outward appearance as the most valuable” posturing of the heart.

There will always be someone who seems more put together and successful on the outside. There is no level of realistic associated with being at the top of everything.

In a sermon this week, my pastor said, “God never asked us to compare.”

And I got angry because I spend a lot of time thinking about how I can be the best—at everything. Which is absolutely, totally, completely, utterly (should I add more adjectives?) ridiculous. Because, really, at the heart of my own thoughts and ideals, I want to compare because if I compare just right, I feel quite put together. It is easy to put ourselves down with comparison, but it is also easy to inflate our egos with it.

Our comparisons tear us apart—even if we think they help us look good for a moment. Maybe you look more put together than the person you are standing next to, but if that is the focus, your thought life needs to be redirected.

I am convicted by the reminder that the pharisees were always the best dressed bunch in the crowd. They looked so put together all the time, and from the outside, their lives shamed others with their faithfulness, religious success, law-abidingness. Everything looked really good when they were rotting away in secret.

Oh how easy it is to make everything look good, while the inside crumbles under the strain forced by roots a little weaker than I’d like and fear a little more than I would hope.

Oh how easy it is to try and make our lives seem goal-worthy, for people to look and think, “She’s got it!” when we are wandering and leading no one.

Oh how easy it is to believe if only this one last thing I’ve been comparing could be mine—when no next thing will really ever satisfy.

We are not fulfilled by a title, a picture, an outward ideal, or the next success. The Great Fulfiller Himself could never create something to equally satisfy the human heart like He can.

Our identities resting soundly in the Blood are the only identities that can permanently fulfill us.

Outside is not all sides. For the innermost workings of the Spirit start first in the silence and solitude then work their way out into the open. We must relate vertically to God before we can truly Love people around us well.

Outside is never a good indicator, whether put together or otherwise, of who is standing behind the title, awards, or well-done hair.

God looks at the heart—and I pray mine is becoming more Loving and Kind, imagined after His own, every day that He looks at it.

Would comparison drop dead in its tracks, as we pursue the greater calling of Kingdom “yes!” and the hopefully resounding sound of Joy and truly being Known.

Everyone, including you, is Truly Known by One—no façade or upscale image will fool, offset, or overrule the understandings of Holy God about us.

And that is Good.

For even in the ugliest place, He speaks Grace Unending—softly His voice carries itself through the misconceptions of ourselves and others, wrapping itself around the false ideologies and expectations, carrying them out and replacing them with every good thing of the Spirit.

We have our misconceptions and desires to be seen in a certain way, and they are often filled with damage and an attempt at self-repair. His tools are not simply to repair but to overhaul and heal. To reshape and reform the way we see ourselves and others. This is not a small task for a small god but an eternal work for the God Who Sees Us, even in our misconceptions and brokenness.

Yes, He sees us—and in every behind-the-mask moment, He Loves us more than we could ever hope to comprehend.

•••

With Love,

Hannah

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