Something amazing happened to me at the gym today. I was laboring away on the elliptical machine and people-watching when I suddenly saw the people I'd been looking at. And what I saw amazed me! They were beautiful. All of them! They were youthful, wrinkled, overweight, lean and toned, energetic, careworn... and breathtaking.
True, there were still a handful of people that I had a hard time finding the beauty in. I was making assumptions about their character based on characteristics they shared with people I'd known in my past. The woman whose posture told me that she was emotionally withdrawn, even from those closest to her. The man whose eyes told me that he was a talker, the constant flow of words a habit developed over a lifetime to keep at bay the questions and thoughts that were lurking in moments of silence. The young lady whose apparent conviction that everyone was watching her bespoke a heart that had not yet learned to put others before itself.
But I forced myself to put aside those judgements and keep looking until I saw the beauty underneath. And it was there, in every person I saw.
Directly in front of me, there was a mother and daughter working out together on a pair of stationary bikes. The daughter was wearing a diamond engagement ring, which I gathered, based on the way she flashed it for her mother, was a recent addition. I was caught off guard by how their beauties were reflected, not only in their own faces, but in each other's face as well. Beauty multiplied by being near a loved one.
How long will this clarity last? How soon will I absentmindedly slip those lenses back on and start looking at people through the filter of my own past and biases again? Well, truth be told, it's happened already. (i'm remembering my thoughts as i watched someone approaching the door of my neighbor's house.)
I will pray most earnestly, however, that I may see the people around me as God does more and more often, until it is a part of who I am.