Beautiful Things: Out of the Dust – Through Heaven’s Eyes – Sunday March 19, 2023

“’I wanted to prove to everyone that I was somebody.’

‘You’re 5 feet nothin’, 100 and nothin, and you’ve got hardly a speck of athletic ability and you hung in there with the best college football team in the land for two years. And you’re gonna walk outta here with a degree from the University of Notre Dame. In this life, you don’t have to prove nothin’ to nobody but yourself.’”


What movie is that from? Yes, the American classic, Rudy. Sean Astin’s second best film, after Lord of the Rings. Rudy is about a young man named Rudy whose ultimate dream was to play for the Notre Dame football team, a dream he fought and scrapped the whole movie to fulfill. His brothers called him short. His father dismissed him. Rudy moved towns, worked through dyslexia, made it into Notre Dame, and got slammed into over and over and over again in practice. The last game of his senior year arrives and he wasn’t even on the list to suit up and just sit on the bench. He perceived himself as a failure. Until, he finally, finally saw himself, his true self. He saw his determination, drive, and heart. He realized that his inability to achieve his goal to play in a game did not define him, because he was more than that perceived failure. Well, he did suit up and tackled a Georgia tech player in the last play of his last game.


The movie Rudy, is a slow progression in perception. Over the course of the movie his family, friends, other players, and finally Rudy himself are able to look past his height, his outward appearance, and his perceived failures, to see his heart. Finally everyone, or almost everyone, saw Rudy for who he truly was, powerful, important, and the heart of the team no matter what. They finally perceived him and he saw himself as God perceives us. Seeing our inner selves as well as our outer selves, the inner things that truly define who we are and not just the exterior outer presentations. The entire movie is a slow progression in perception and God wants us to have that same progression too. God wants us to encounter ourselves and others, not just through human eyes but also through Heaven’s eyes. Unfortunately, experiencing life like that isn’t easy, even for a holy priest of God like Samuel.


Earlier in the book of 1st Samuel, the Israelites grew frustrated with the leadership of Samuel’s sons and begged for a King. God was like, ooh this is not going to work out well for you but they would not be swayed. So, Samuel taped Saul who eventually disobeyed God and lost God’s favor. At which point, we arrive at our scripture today where the Lord directed Samuel to the house of Jesse to find a new king. Jesse had 8 sons and Eliab was front and center, starting line up. Samuel knows, knows that this has to be the king. Right? “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But God says, think again. “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” Jesse goes through 2,3,4,5,6,7 of his sons before Samuel asks do you have any others and Jesse says, “yeah, my youngest, but he’s with the sheep…” So, they summon the youngest son, David. And it’s him, David, who would become king. David who would defeat Goliath. David from whom, eventually, Jesus himself would descend. The youngest, overlooked, last thought of, was the one God found to be King.


Now, something I find fascinating about this passage is that God doesn’t chastise Samuel or Jesse for taking so long to choose David. God very clearly lets them know when they did not have the right person but there is no implication in the text of rebuke, chastising, or, are you kidding me, could have taken any longer to get to him? Instead, God patiently guides and directs them, saying nope, nope, nope, not yet, try again, and again, and again until they get it right. The text even partly describes David by his outward appearance. It is almost like, God acknowledges that as humans, we perceive things in limited and narrow ways. We are not God, so God comes in to help bridge the gap. Because human perception alone misses so much and is prone to shaping by all sorts of things, God guides us to broader horizons.


I remember driving one evening in Plano. I was heading home after a long day of teaching, two after school rehearsals, plus a bible study at church. It was dark. It was late. I was tired and grumpy and probably still had more work to do when I got home. I was minding my own business when this minivan comes out of nowhere speeding around me and I have slam on the breaks. And, I’m mad. I am the picture of self-righteousness telling myself who does she think she is? Does she think she is better than me? Look at her, so important has to rush around everywhere, reckless. As I pulled up to an intersection, I refused to look over at the minivan, who ended up being in the lane next to me. I stared, fuming at the red light, and decided to throw an angry glare at her but as I turned and I noticed she wasn’t looking at me. It looked like she was crying. The light turned green. She drove away and tears came to my eyes as I remembered a short video from worship one Sunday. It was a cheesy video called Jesus Glasses, but it stuck with me. It was about a man so busy with his life that he saw everyone else as a nuisance, until he was given a special pair of glasses that revealed the inner lives behind our external actions. With the glasses on he didn’t see nuisances or annoyances. He saw people in pain, desperate to be loved, struggling with addiction, looking for work, and grieving lost loved ones.


Fear, doubt, anger, pain, struggle, sorrow, anxiety, stress, they can all influence our perception of ourselves and others. All sorts of pressures, emotions, and situations can skew and shape our perception. In my tiredness and grumpyness, that mini-van woman was nothing more than reckless, irresponsible, and in my way. But when we become aware of our limitations we open ourselves to grace, and God guides us into broader horizons. God guides us to encounter the world through heaven’s eyes and brings beautiful things out of expanded horizons. Through heaven’s eyes, we offer compassion to ourselves and others more frequently and readily. We see ourselves and others as, beloved, valuable, and of inherent worth. We see more deeply, more thoroughly, and from a centered place of peace. When we experience life through heaven’s eyes, whole new worlds of compassion, care, and understanding open up before us.


Yes, you are going to have rough days where compassion feels far away and irritation is right on the surface. Yes, the voice of your inner critic may shift into overdrive sometimes. There will be days when you tell yourself that you are nothing more than your worst moments and there will be days when you define others by their failures and worst moments. And the Good news is, that God’s grace never stoops working. It doesn’t matter if you are 5 foot nothing and the youngest brother sent off to tend sheep by yourself. God sees you as you are, and you can see yourself that way too.  Through heaven’s eyes you can see the power, the strength, the care, the dedication, the king and queen that has been inside you and everyone all along. God guides us to experience the world through Heaven’s eyes and brings beautiful things from our expanded horizons.

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