I peered out the window as I heard a van pull up outside. I was curious about the other couples who were attending the Christian family conference over the weekend. As a woman emerged from a gray van, I gasped. “Honey,” I called to my husband who was putting away some of his things, “You won’t believe this woman outside! Her hair is buzzed, and she has a bald stripe shaved on the top of her head!” I kept looking out the window, wondering what kind of Christian woman would have a hairstyle like that. I imagined she was probably a feminist…or maybe a punk rocker. Either way, I knew I wouldn’t be making friends with her over the weekend. I let my eyes wander around the parking lot of the resort. I saw a kind-looking woman with long, curly red hair and another nice-looking person with shoulder-length blonde hair. I suspected I’d be making friends with some of the nicer-looking ladies I saw meandering around the premises. I couldn’t imagine how the bald-stripe woman fit into this conservative-looking group of people.
An hour or so later, all the attendees met together for a “getting to know you” time. My husband and I found ourselves standing next to the woman with the bald stripe and her husband. It was then that I could see that her shaved hair was due to a huge scar on the top of her head. Within a few minutes of noticing the scar, I heard her husband make a reference to his wife’s recent brain surgery, as he clutched her to himself. Suddenly, I felt like the world’s worst Christian.
It wasn’t the first time I had judged someone’s character before getting to know her. I often jump to sour conclusions about people and then later find out how nice they actually are. Judging people is one of my best worst habits.
Over the course of the two-day conference, I was able to spend some time getting to know the sweet, godly woman who had survived a brain tumor removal. She shared with me and some other ladies how the Lord had used the trial to strengthen her faith and increase her love for our gracious Lord. When the conference was over and we were all going our separate ways, I found myself wishing that I had had more time to get to know her and learn from her. My thoughts went back to the moment I first looked at her. I almost missed the blessing of meeting this woman because of a misjudgment of her character. As I reflected on my foolishness, I realized that even if this woman had chosen her hairstyle and hadn’t had a brain surgery, I shouldn’t have rejected her. She could’ve been a feminist or a punk rocker, and it still would’ve been right for me to have befriended her and tried to show her Christ by my life and my love. Many times in the Bible Jesus befriended those whom others judged and shunned. I also thought about the fact that God looks at men’s hearts, rather than their outward appearances (I Samuel 16:7). I don’t have the ability to see men’s hearts, but I do have the responsibility of getting to know others and judging them with righteous judgment (John 7:24), rather than on their external appearances.
I don’t think I’m an expert yet at loving strangers the way I know I should, but I’m working on it. Since that incident, I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and shown friendliness to as many guests at church as I can—not just the ones who look like me. And the next time I encounter someone who stands out to me in an unusual way, I have a feeling I’m going to be compelled to be the first in line to befriend her. I learned an important lesson, and I don’t think I’m going to forget it.