Um, yeah, I just “Thesaurused” the whimsy out of the old saying… “Judging a book by its cover.”
But I have good reason.
There may be a million and one blog posts out there with that title, and I didn’t want mine to get lost in the muddle by having it judged on an overused saying. And now you’ve come this far…
One of the burdens of my dyslexia is that I cannot process old English text. It might as well be in Portuguese or Swahili. And believe me, I have tried and tried. When “Pride and Prejudice” came out in 2005 I saw it four times in a row. Relieved I finally knew what the fuss was all about, the Cliff Notes had hardly done it justice, I was both elated and quite sad.
I know the movie hardly did Austen’s work sanction.
But it is what it is, and struggles make us stronger. Still, when I saw my daughter’s copy of her favorite literary masterpiece, I fell in love. I ordered a beautiful copy for myself and tried to read it again.
So never judge a book by its cover lest you own a fanciful copy of a literary masterpiece that simply looks lovely on your desk.
And not to enrage, but merely to engage, yesterday in a Starbucks, my cover was judged. The same old song and dance. I entered the coffee shop with my toddler sons – my dark skinned Sam and my towheaded Charlie, lugging a bulky car seat with a blue eyed baby girl inside.
An older man made eye contact with me. I smiled. He rolled his eyes.
I heard his wife say, “My she has her hands full.” And he scoffed and said, “Yeah, and looks like she’s popular with a few fellas.” And they laughed. He continues, “Glad our tax dollar can buy her a $6.00 cup of coffee.”
Again, they laugh.
By all appearances, it is safe to assume my children have different dads. But, I don’t know what makes him think he’s buying my coffee? I am slightly disheveled, but I hardly look homeless?
I move on.
Diaper changes, hand washings, and a head injury later, Charlie is bandaged up, and I apologize profusely for the damage to the Carmel Macchiato display. We head back to the car to continue our 5-hour journey to see my parents. As luck would have it, the older couple who have decided I am the welfare whore of Babylon, are on our heels.
I plead with my sons to stay close, I awkwardly balance coffee while I haul the bulky seat to my car. I can feel their eyes on me. And I hear him say, “She hardly needs to be eating scones.”
I dislike this guy.
And! I don’t have a freaking scone???
As I herd the boys, we are squished between cars and Sam proceeds to Karate chop and kick a blue Honda with his tiny fists and feet like an insane little Ninja. I bark, “Samuel Michael! No sir!”
Yeah, it is their car.
I make my apologies, and they just stare. I get to my car, and I hear the man say, “Well, that’s our society for ya!”
And he would be correct.
Our society judges by what we think we see and what we hold as truth when we have no idea what in hell’s bells we are talking about.
The vandals and the baby finally fell asleep, and I am left to ponder as I drive.
I am guilty of the same behaviors.
And melancholy is my companion the rest of the day.
I am sad for that man. But I don’t want to judge him. Who knows what made his demeanor the way that it is? And sure, my four-year-old did violently abuse his 90’s model hatchback, but he’s just a little boy. And I pity anyone who can’t see the grand folly in that.
He didn’t do any damage, and I certainly didn’t let him get away with it.
And I can’t shake the hurt. And something else lingers, somewhere in the back of my mind. As I wearily climb into bed, and I received a text from my college roommate, turned cousin, as she introduced me to her cousin, and I married him.
“Can’t believe it has been six years. Love you…”
There’s the cover… and then there is the book.
Yesterday was the anniversary of a catastrophe that sparked the revolution to live our lives differently- the tragic accidental death of my husband’s older brother and business partner.
The grief and hardship drew us closer to God. We clung to Jesus and grew in our need to make Him center in our lives. We decided to rewrite our story and teach our children that, in the midst of our suffering, He is enough. We would not let affliction curse us. We would choose joy – we would open our home to those in need.
We would foster, and we would adopt.
And I am again sad for the butthead in Starbucks. And I am sad for all the times I have been a butthead – when I have judged a book by its cover.
And the events that brought me to this Starbucks with my mismatched family are a story that goes well beyond skin color and genetics.
At my core, I want to be a good shepherd to those in need, that they might experience the love of Christ.
But, like the grumpy man in Starbucks, I often fall prey to my senses. I think the worst of people or I write a creative story in my head about how and why they are in the messes I am witnessing from afar.
But the profoundness of humanity and our condition go so much deeper than that which we can see with human eyes.
As I tried to sleep, I couldn’t shake the image of the man from Starbucks face. His disgust for what he believed my situation to be… and I am most horrified that I know I have looked the same way.
And I never want this to be said of me.
That I judged harshly.
That I was unwilling to listen to the intensity of a struggle.
Or that I was so steeped in self-righteousness, I was incapable of seeing myself in the least of these.
And while it is impossible not to sound judgemental of this man, I am grateful to have had him in my path. I pray whatever burdens him is someday healed. And I am most joyful that in the midst of tragedy our family increased instead of only decreasing. And that positive growth may get us looks, and jeers, but we have life and life abundant.
He is a good, good Father.
May your floors be sticky and your calling ordained. Love, Jami
Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. 1 Cor. 15:51