I’ll never forget a friend I had my freshman year of college. He was rather small, and on first appearance he seemed to be on the nerdy side of things. However, despite what seemed to be rather limited abilities, he seemed to have an inordinate amount of self-confidence. He really did not seem to be afraid of much. What I learned is that he was an expert in martial arts, particularly Shaolin, and that he was incredibly gifted. Thus he was confident because on any given day, he could pretty much win any fight.
Now we might not worry about getting into fights, but we all might have a similar experience of misjudging people based on appearance. We all know that we should “not judge a book by its cover,” and the importance of trying not to pre-judge. Scripture often draws our attention to this fact. So if we all know not to judge, not to be quick to generalize, then why do we do it? Why do we walk into situations and jump to conclusions?
The reality is that when we are relaxed and we have time to consider things, we tend to look past superficial details and see the heart of the matter. The conversion that needs to take place is not so much a matter of learning a new skill, but rather of being mindful of the skill that we already value. The desert fathers talked about this well. They emphasized that holiness required a kind of vigilant heart, one that is constantly seeking the Lord.
To have a vigilant heart, we need to hit the pause button from time to time. We need to stop, catch our breath, and take a moment to turn to the Lord. We may not be able to dedicate hours and hours to prayer, but we can dedicate 2-3 minutes here and there throughout our day. We can take a moment, and consider what the Lord wants to say us. We can imagine what Jesus might tell us about what we are experiencing.
So give this practice a try. Maybe you can set your cell phone to go off every few hours. When it goes off, call our Lord to mind and do a gut check. Take inventory of what is going on, and then imagine what Jesus would say about it. This is not infallible guide to discerning the promptings of the Spirit, but it’s a good start.