Grace that only a Forlorn Book Cover Knows

Dear Self,

Have you ever picked up a book and decided to re-shelf it only to hear from your best friend six months later that it is one of her favorite books?  Have you ever seen someone from across the room and decided not to be their friend just because of the way they look?  Has someone ever told you something and you shut down your heart towards them because what they said stung?

If so, you’re not alone.  

I once picked up and promptly shelved a bent-corner, paper-back book with two animated deer dominating the cover.  Three years later, I received a leather bound copy of my mentor’s favorite book.  It was only after devouring its contents that I discovered it shared the same title as the bent-corner, paper-back book I had hurriedly shelved.  The words within Hinds Feet on High Places didn’t change in three years – it was the same edition.  But for three years I let the appearance distance me from a story that changed my life.

All too often I treat people the same way I treat a book.

As I was talking to my dear mentor on the phone several weeks ago I realized all too often I treat people the same way I treat a book.  Sometimes it’s superficial.  They don’t look like me so I re-route to a different group of girls.  Sometimes it’s gossip.  She said, that he said, that they said, that we said…, so I react.  And, sometimes it’s personal.  They say something hurtful or simply choose differently than me, so I retreat.  I justify my response, but really all I’m doing is looking at a paper-back book with proud deer on the front and shelving it.  I didn’t even read the back!  I didn’t ask anyone if the content was any good.  And, I didn’t give it a chance to prove itself.

There’s a story covers can’t tell.

Here’s what I have learned in my journey of judging book covers and people-watching: there’s a story the front can’t tell.  There’s highs and lows, beauty and burdens, and defeats and victories that pictures and poise can’t communicate.

You have to open the book.  You have to extend favor that the cover doesn’t deserve and read.  You have to look through eyes of grace and see beyond what meets the eye and listen for tones that aren’t audible.

I once took a dance intensive with a girl a few years younger than me, but beyond me in dance by several years.  Mutually, we valued what each thought of the other.  Throughout the intensive she continually said and did subtle but slicing things.  Each night I told my mom how hurt I was.  Each night my mom encouraged me to love my friend suggested that my friend was cutting me down because she deeply desired my approval.  That was hard for me to believe, but I extended grace anyways.  

You have to extend favor that the cover doesn’t deserve.

Turns out my mom was right.  The following summer we attended the same intensive again.  Full of confidence and joy my friend encouraged others with zeal and received my encouragement with delight.  

You see when I looked at my friend the first summer I saw a turned-up nose and self-centered ballerina.  But each night my mom encouraged me to read the book and extend favor the cover didn’t deserve.  When I did I read a story of hurt, a deep longing for approval, and desire to be affirmed.  The best part is I’m living the ending.  While dance has faded out of my life it has blazed into vibrant flames in my friend’s life and I get to continue to encourage her.  

It’s a gift I never would have received if I had shelved the book with a self-centered ballerina on the cover.



PC: Drink Words

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  1. Thanks for your honesty, Sisi. I often find it easier to just ‘shelf the not-so-pretty’ books, so your post has pointed out to me the importance of having mercy like you had. I wish it wasn’t so hard sometimes, but it is encouraging to hear that it is worth it!

    1. Grace has never gotten easier for me to extend, but when I remember the value of extending it I know it’s worth it and I can’t but extend it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  2. You spoke Truth again. May I get past my first (or second or third) impressions of people, and take time to get to know their heart.

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