A Catholic Convert in Ottawa

Scratching Below the Surface

Posted on: April 11, 2013

The other night, I was listening to a local radio station as the interviewee described her experience at a dinner party. When she answered the usual question about her occupation with the words “I’m a stay-at-home mother,” she found that no one was interested in what she had to say.

As though she was just a stay-at-home mother.

I wonder if we mentally add that “just” when dealing with people so we can slot them into a category. If we can say that someone is just a child, a teenager, a stay-at-home parent, a senior, a person with a disability, a member of a particular ethnic group, and so on, we can tell ourselves that category defines—and therefore limits—their experience or perspective.

It’s like saying a photograph of me represents everything I am. What you see is what you get. But one-note personalities are for fictional characters.

We’re told as children not to judge a book by its cover. As Christians, we’re told by God to look past what we see to the person within.

When God told Samuel to anoint one of the sons of Jesse as King Saul’s successor, Samuel saw David’s brother Eliab and thought he had to be the one. But God told him in 1 Samuel 16:7* that “the LORD sees not as man sees; man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.”

We’re called to become more like Jesus day by day. He talked to and healed the outcasts of his time, and even called them to ministry—people who might have been seen as just a Samaritan woman (see John 4:1-42), just a tax collector (see Matthew 9:9-13), just a fisherman (see Acts 4:13), or just a leper (see Matthew 8:1-4). Jesus saw the whole person, not merely that person’s gender, ethnicity, social status or occupation, or the state of their health.

Do we recognize that people have more interests, skills, hopes, dreams and worries than we could guess at first glance? Or do mental blinders narrow our perspective, leading us to make unfair assumptions that prevent us from finding common ground with the people around us?

We need to remember not only that there’s more to each of us than meets the eye but also that we share one very important trait: we are “all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

(*Quotes from the Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition.)

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3 Responses to "Scratching Below the Surface"

I resolve to get better at following up on comments 🙂 Thanks for the encouragement!

I think sometimes we can even define ourselves as “just” one thing or another. I recently was asked by a couple at church what it is I do and I responded with, “Oh I’m just a secretary” without even thinking twice. The man looked at me and said: You aren’t ‘just’ anything. That really stuck with me! Great post!

Yes, if we could strive to view everything from God’s point of view. Many of our decisions and attitudes would be different!

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Food for Thought

(Y)ou do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” ~ James 4:14-15

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