My 22-year-old daughter, Kim, and I were strolling through a city park last summer when I noticed three leather-clad dudes sitting in the shade of a poplar tree. Their tattooed arms rippled with muscle. Two sported shaved heads, while the third wore a braid that ended in the middle of his back.
My first thought was of the Hell’s Angels and whether this trio belonged to the notorious bike gang. “I wouldn’t wanna meet them in a dark alley,” I whispered as we walked past. That’s when I noticed the emblem on the back of one rider’s leather vest.
Lo and behold! The emblem bore a cross with a man hanging on it. Yellow and orange sun rays extended outward from the figure. Below the cross were the words, “Christian Motorcycle Association.” I looked at Kim sheepishly. She looked back at me and raised her eyebrows. “Good job, Mom,” she said. “You pegged them right, didn’t ya?”
The experience was particularly humbling because I’m a biker, too. I wonder – how many times have others regarded me and my husband with suspicion as we’ve driven down the highway on our two-wheeler? You’d think I would have known better.
That was a humbling experience. It’s been a constant reminder of how quickly we judge others by their outward appearance. Piercings, tattoos, color-streaked hair, out-of-the-norm clothing, make-up, even body weight – all of these form perceptions in our mind about the person behind them. “People judge by outward appearance but the Lord looks at a person’s thoughts and intentions,” says 1 Samuel 16:7.
Ever since my blooper on that summer day, I’ve asked God to help me see people as He does. I might get stuck on the exterior, but He knows their hearts, their needs, joys, sorrows, dreams, and regrets. He knows their failures, victories, and potential. He sees beyond the leather, the tattoos, and the funky hair-dos, and He views them as precious.
How about you? Have you ever misjudged someone’s character by their outward appearance? Let’s hear your story!