What God Sees When He Looks At You

Al Andrews

When I was 25 years old, I paid $15,000 for my first house. They wanted $20,000, but willingly took my offer.

If you saw the house, you’d know why I got a deal.

Quite a few window panes were broken out, the kitchen had only a sink (no cabinets), and the floor was lower in the middle of the house than at the edges. (This was due to the fact that the previous owners decided to cut the main floor joist in order to put in a heating vent).

Though the previous owners had departed, the house was inhabited by an extended family of mice and a small bat.

I named the bat Nicodemus because he only came out at night.

The house fit nicely into the neighborhood.

Mine was one of the more upscale places on the block. It was one of those neighborhoods caught between the interstate and progress, and both were passing us by. However, after moving in, I found I had the most intriguing of neighbors, and we soon became friends.

Photo Credit: Holly Lay, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Holly Lay, Creative Commons

There was “Sis” who lived next door and was married to a quiet alcoholic, Walter. Her mother, “Mama” lived across the street, and let me borrow her lawnmower if I’d mow her yard, too.

Mary, an operator with AT&T, lived on my left, and Everett her cab driver husband, who liked driving more than being at home. Mrs. Nichols, who regularly ran for mayor, lived a few doors down. (She consistently received only 8 votes, all from the neighbors).

Across the street in the apartments was Big Malcolm, who obviously had lots of friends, because each day, people visited him every fifteen minutes or so and left with small gift bags.

And then there was a woman whose name I never knew.

She also lived in the apartments. Her weathered face bore the scars of a rough life, and her frail frame seemed unsteady. She too had frequent visitors—all men. We all knew what she did to make money, and we didn’t like her very much.

One night, my roommate, Eddie, and I were sitting out on the front porch, as good Southerners do. He began playing his guitar, and soon the neighbors had joined us for “Old Gospel Night.” Sis, Mama, Mary, Mary’s mom and a few other wonderful misfits were there, singing old hymns together.

We finally sang everyone’s favorite, “The Old Rugged Cross.”

We sang the first verse and the chorus, the second verse and the chorus, and then it happened. Toward the end of the chorus of the second verse, a figure started walking through the darkness toward the house.

It was her. The woman we’d shunned.

She came up on the porch, nestled on the railing, and joined in on the third verse. And when we got to the chorus, she belted out a harmony that would have rivaled Vince Gill.

It was the most beautiful, lilting harmony I’ve ever heard.

And I’ll cling to the old rugged cross
Til my trophies at last I lay down.
I will cling to the old rugged cross.
And exchange it some day for a crown.

She sang the forth verse and the last chorus, and then wandered silently to her apartment.
I was silenced by my arrogance and judgment, Tears welled up in my eyes.

While I had been sneering at a prostitute, I had completely missed a deeper truth – that the woman across the street was once a little girl who had been in Sunday school, singing songs of hope and redemption. And somewhere she’d lost her way, and had been wandering a long, long time.

And all she wanted was to come home.

I was reminded of a verse in the New Testament in Romans (4: 17). In essence it says, “He is a God who sees things that are not as though they were.” In other words, God has an imagination for people.

God sees beyond what is, to what could be.

Think about it – he didn’t see Abraham and Sarah as a childless couple. Rather he saw the parents of a new nation. And he didn’t see Paul as a killer of Christians, Moses as a stutterer, or Mary Magdalene as a whore. No, he imagined them as they would be.

Since that day on the porch, I’ve tried to adopt that mindset. I’d encourage you to adopt it too. Don’t believe what you see. That’s boring. Instead, develop an imagination, for yourself and for others. And by doing so, you’ll learn about mercy and grace.

You see, everyone has a song they need to sing, and they know it by heart.

Al Andrews

Al Andrews

Al Andrews is a storyteller. Whether through counseling, speaking, or writing, his passion is to engage in the stories of people, inviting them to hope. He is the author of The Boy, The Kite, and the Wind and A Walk One Winter Night, which are available on Amazon. For regular updates, make sure to follow along on Twitter (@itsalandrews). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • Beautiful.

  • This brought tears to my eyes, reinforcing my study this morning and God’s heart for me. Thank you for writing.

  • Mike Schall

    Al…this is absolutely beautiful. Thank you.

  • Beautiful!

  • Rachel Weeks

    Loved this message. Thank you for sharing. I don’t intend to be one of those online critics only to ask that the myth of Mary Magdelene as a prostitute stop being perpetuated. This is not supported by any of the canonical gospels, rather she sadly has been combined with the unnamed woman who washed Jesus’ hair with her feet.
    But thank you thank you thank you for this beautiful message! I needed to hear this on this morning. How amazing is His grace which saved a wretch like me.

  • Bobbe Taber

    Beautiful writing. At the same time… I hope to make an observation… Why do we so often comment on women used for commercial sexual exploitation, but never speak to the real problem: Man who are willing to pay for sex. Please, as an exercise in reality, what would this article look like if you omitted the judgment of women, and got to the heart of the matter: It is so very wrong and shameful that men can pay for sex, exploit women, even rape and batter women for money and are never even shamed. Yet according to the Nordic model, if we only arrested men paying for sex, the real crime would stop. Before you write a “touching” article again with the same ages old theme of shaming women, please spend time educating yourself on the dynamics of human trafficking, the 2nd most profitable organized crime activity in the world. And one in which men are the primary perpetrators. If you can shift your perspective to one that shames each and every man who knocked on that door to pay to rape a woman, then one day, we might make a positive difference for women in this world. We might actually stop the demand side, the most shameful side of prostitution. Because that’s the real shame in this equation.

    • robinmoss

      But wasn’t part of his point, the conviction he had for judging her and asking the reader to see things differently, as well? We are all guilty of judging swiftly and wrongly. You are so right, sex trafficking is a societal epidemic and we need to punish those seeking sex, and not shame the woman, or whoever the victim is. I think more and more, criminal justice systems are decriminalizing and seeing those trafficked as a victim of a crime, rather than a criminal. We have a long way to go, but more and more, there is awareness.

    • Lorie Erickson Neighbors

      You make some excellent points, but not in the context of this article. Al and his roommate had been judgmental toward the woman, and it was the woman who had begun to sing the hymn.