Whoever oppresses the poor shows contempt for their Maker, but whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Proverbs 14:31
Yes, I know it’s pretty ragged. And probably needs to be washed more often than it is, but I’m afraid it will fall apart. The zipper is coming unmoored and needs to be sewn back into place. It’s splotchy in spots and decidedly unattractive. But it is warm. Super warm. When you live in New England and you love walking outdoors in below freezing weather, warm trumps attractive. At least that’s what I believed one February day when I put this jacket on and headed to my favorite ocean town.
The day started out beautifully. It was a Sweet Selah Day for me: a day set apart for just God and me. I drove to the ocean with a light heart in my warm, weathered jacket. When I arrived, I pulled on a hat that covers my entire head and wraps around my neck. I put on my woolen mittens and headed out for a brisk walk by the ocean. It was about 16 degrees outside, but did that bother me? Not. At. All. My jacket and I were just fine, thank you. I prayed as I walked and even sang out loud because, not surprisingly, no one else was walking the path by the ocean that day. Imagine that!
At the end of the pathway stood gorgeous resort hotels, one after another, all with spectacular views of the crashing waves. I wondered how expensive a room might be for just one night, and if some year my husband and I could sneak away, off-season, and actually stay in one of those ocean-viewing rooms. I decided to hike up to one of the resort offices and ask. Why not?
When I entered the lobby, one person was ahead of me, and I waited my turn. The hotel clerk was attentive and charming to the lady before me. I realized I still had my hat on, so took it off and ran my fingers through my hair. Once that lady was served, the clerk looked at me for about half a second and then turned away and made a phone call. He did not ever look at me again, or respond when I said a timid, “Excuse me?” It was as if I was not there. I waited a long time and then gave up.
I wandered out, a bit confused, and made my way to a public restroom. And that’s when I looked in a mirror and saw myself. Yikes! The jacket was its scruffy self as always, but my hair. Oh dear. The hat had done horrible things to it, and it was standing up in odd peaks on top of my head. My face was bright red from the cold and the wind. In short, I looked like a homeless person who had no access to things like mirrors. I began to understand why the man at the hotel had ignored me and not even glanced my way.
Then I became very sad. I was still “me” inside my jacket and messy hair. I was polite and friendly when I spoke to him. In spite of that, because of my appearance, I was a nonentity. Invisible. I might as well not have been there at all. Lord, I whispered, is this what being homeless and poor feels like? Like you are invisible and just don’t count? It was sobering. Convicting. Turning away and acting like someone’s not there is usually done in our culture out of fear and ignorance. We don’t know this person who doesn’t look like us. They might be dangerous. I have been that hotel clerk. Not overtly rude, but absolutely unwilling to engage another human being because of his appearance.
Our God is not like this. Jesus was the poor. He had no place to lay his head most nights and slept outside. He chose to identify with the ones who are invisible. In our verse above, He declares that honoring Him means being kind to the needy.
Oh, Father, forgive me when I judge by outward appearance alone. Help me to notice and value all human beings, giving special attention, concern, and kindness to the needy. Thank You for that glimpse into what it feels like to be judged based solely on appearance. It wasn’t fun. Show me, Lord, how to give—not just money—but how to give my time and my attention to those in need. Overcome my fears. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
You are loved,
Sweet Selah Ministries
To encourage a movement away from the belief that “busy is better”
and toward the truth that stillness and knowing God matter most—
and will be reflected in more effective work and service
To offer resources and retreats that help women pause (Selah)
and love God more deeply as they know Him more intimately (Sweet)