By Keith Burden

It had been a long week at graduate school. I was attending a modular course on the Free Will Baptist Bible College campus. The class had been practical and challenging, but 32 hours of instruction and interaction left me exhausted.

The session concluded Friday at noon. I decided to skip lunch and hit the road immediately. I slid under the steering wheel of my Dodge Colt station wagon and began the 12-hour trip home. If everything went well, I would arrive by midnight.

Twilight hours were the worst. The sun sat on the horizon forever. Blinded by the glare, I found it difficult to relax. My neck ached and my shoulders burned from tension and fatigue. To make matters worse I developed a throbbing headache as my glasses pressed against the bridge of my nose.

Ingenious Solution

In an attempt to ease the discomfort, I tore a piece from a paper napkin and placed it under the nose pads of my glasses to serve as a cushion. Before long the pain subsided and my headache eased. The next few hours passed in relative comfort.

As I neared the halfway point of my journey, I spotted a road sign signaling a rest stop one-mile ahead. Needing to stretch my legs and get some fresh air, I decided to stop for a few minutes.

The parking lot was crowded with cars. As I made my way along the sidewalk I greeted other travelers with a friendly, “Hi! How are you this evening?” To my surprise, most were unresponsive. In fact, some actually stopped and stared at me as I passed by. I was perplexed by their odd behavior.

Do I Know You?

Entering the men’s room I noticed one man who seemed preoccupied with my appearance. I tried hard to ignore his steady gaze. He never took his eyes off me. Perhaps I look familiar and he’s trying to figure out if he knows who I am, I reasoned. He finally left.

I walked over to the lavatory and washed my hands. As I rinsed the soap away, I glanced into the mirror. I couldn’t believe what I saw. There, sticking out from under my glasses, was that piece of paper napkin. No wonder people were staring at me. I looked like a dork!

I removed the makeshift paper cushion, dried my hands and tried to return to my car as inconspicuously as possible. I had been questioning the strange behavior of others without realizing I was the one with the problem. Once I got over the initial embarrassment, I laughed at myself the rest of the way home.

Take a Hard Look

That incident reminds me how we sometimes judge the actions and appearance of others without realizing we may look or act equally ridiculous to them. We can become like the man in James 1:23-24 who, “…beholding his natural face in a glass (mirror)…goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was.”

To my shame I confess that I have been guilty of jumping to conclusions about others based solely on their speech or how they dressed. I ignored Jesus’ instruction in John 7:24—“Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” Things are not always as they appear.

Jesus asked in Matthew 7:3, “…why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” It’s possible to become so focused on or preoccupied with the faults and imperfections of others that we fail to acknowledge our own shortcomings and inconsistencies.

Good Advice

That’s why it’s important to take an honest look at ourselves by spending time each day gazing into the mirror of God’s Word. It’s only as we see ourselves through the lenses of scripture that we can view others through eyes of love and compassion.

By the way—before you appear in public next time, take a moment to glance into the mirror. Who knows? It might save you the embarrassment of having others stare at you.

About the Writer: Keith Burden is fwbpastove secretary of the National Association of Free Will Baptists.