outward appearances

Some facts have been on my mind lately.

  • Fact 1= Indiana has a habit of making extra-narrow parking spaces.
  • Fact 2= Indiana residents have a propensity for driving extra-wide vehicles.
  • Fact 3= I am not the world’s-best driver.
  • Facts 1+2+3= I have a difficult time parking in Indiana.

These facts were highlighted for me on a recent trip to the children’s museum. I pulled into a spot with a car on the left and a minivan on the right. I realized as I got out that the back end of my car was a little close to the car on my left. But, with such limited space, I decided it wasn’t worth correcting. I did, though, make sure to open the back door carefully. Everyone got out. No problem.

That is, there wasn’t a problem until we got back to the car after our visit. The neighbor car was gone, but there was something new: a note on my window. The note said, “Thanks SO much for denting my car. Learn how to park!”

I was frustrated. Sure, I could have parked better, but I have seen much worse. Plus, I know for certain that I did not dent their car. I was careful. I wish the driver of the other car would have been there. I wish I had been given the chance to defend myself.

This incident happened two days ago and it is still bothering me. That is the most frustrating part. Why do I care so much about what a stranger thinks about my parking abilities?

The truth is, I waste a lot of mental energy worrying about what others think of me. When I make a driving mistake, I worry that people in other cars will think I am a bad driver. When I get dressed in the morning, I worry that more fashion-forward women will think I am dorky. When I have people over for dinner, I worry that they won’t like my food and will think I am a terrible cook.

These worries reflect my excessive concern with outward appearances.

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7

There are many things the Bible tells me not to be concerned about: appearances, food, and clothing to name a few. But, there is at least one thing the Bible does tell me to be concerned about: my heart.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” – Proverbs 4:23

Do I spend as much time thinking about the state of my heart as I spend thinking about the state of my appearance? When I look through catalogs, and long to have more stuff, do I worry that my heart is becoming more materialistic? When I spend a significant amount of my free time focusing on self-improvement, do I worry that my heart is becoming more selfish? When I watch screens instead of read the Word, do I worry that my heart is being guided by the wrong principles?

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” –Psalm 139:23-24


Noticed Joseph is a guy who gets noticed.

His father gives him a special coat that makes him stand out from the crowd. He has dreams of grandeur that cause his brothers to hate him. Even after his life takes a terrible turn, this pattern conti.nues. First, as a slave at Potiphar’s house, where he is promoted to be the master’s personal attendant. Then, in prison, where he is given extra authority and responsibility.


God is with Joseph. Therefore, others notice Joseph.

That’s what happens when the cupbearer and the baker land in prison in Genesis 40. They have dreams that disturb them, and it turns out Joseph is able to interpret them.

In this part of the story the dreams and the interpretation of dreams get all the attention. But I think there is another key point: the reason the dreams come up at all.

“When Joseph came to them the next morning, he saw that they were dejected. So he asked Pharaoh’s officials who were in custody with him in his master’s house, “Why do you look so sad today?” – Gen 40:6-7

Joseph is at perhaps the lowest point of his life. After working his way up at Potiphar’s house, he is thrown into prison. He has done nothing wrong. He has every reason to feel sorry for himself. Yet, in the midst of his own pain, Joseph is still able to see the pain of others.

I find this to be challenging. When I am at low and difficult points, my reaction is often to become self-focused. I think about what I need to do to survive the struggle. I ask God why he is doing this to me. I cry. I feel frustrated. I focus on me, myself, and I.

Like someone walking around with a mirror in front of my face, I become blinded to the reality of what is going on around me. I go into social situations wondering who will be my friend, and miss seeing the person who needs me to be theirs. I go into parenting situations hoping my kids won’t add to my stress level that day, and miss seeing the ways they need me to meet their needs.

Joseph shows me an example of someone whose eyes have a wider focus. Perhaps because God is with him, he is able to look at the situation through God’s eyes. Through God’s eyes, Joseph can still see and feel sorrow for his own pain. But, he can see that pain in the context of the world around him.

God is with Joseph. Therefore, Joseph notices others.

God is with me. Who does he want me to notice?