Recently, a difficult situation resulted in hurt feelings. Mine. To me, “fair” has always been important. When I feel inequity, mine or someone else’s, I can struggle to pull my thoughts back to Jesus—who was a victim extraordinaire of unthinkable inequity—yet entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. While I was wrestling with these “fair” thoughts I “happened upon” an article seemingly written just for me—at just the right time. It was from Vaneetha Rendall Risner’s blog, Dancing in the Rain, concerning the word “overlook.” Her words caught my attention:
I remembered a speaker who said the best way to love people is to remember them as their best selves. That means not dwelling on the things they’ve done wrong but rather focusing on what they’ve done right. Rehearsing their strengths rather than their faults. Remembering the times they have shown up for me and the times they have been kind and thoughtful rather than when they’ve wounded me. In short, one way to love people is to overlook their offenses.
Many Scriptures teach this wisdom:
A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult. (Proverbs 12:16)
Overlook an offense and bond a friendship; fasten on to a slight and—good-bye, friend! (Proverbs 17:9)
So much truth in these verses. Yes, offenses are real. These verses acknowledge this. Yes, we are to be honest and seek resolution with our offenders in the ways the Bible teaches. No, it is not loving to be an enabler.
However, it’s easy to be annoyed by offenses, inconsequential in the big picture of life —Like the past week when a server at a fast food drive-through gave us the wrong meal, not even resembling our order…FOUR times over the course of thirty minutes, or when someone visiting the park across the street parked in front of my mailbox so that my mail was not delivered, or when I stood in a checkout line while the person in front of me appeared to be finished, but then pulled out unsorted coupons and for fifteen minutes cut coupons…after which his card was declined three times. (Yes, I did try to pay the cashier for his order, but he refused…and I confess, I’m not sure if it was fully out of benevolence or frustration.) Or, when someone promised to do something I was counting on and then didn’t. You get the point. I won’t mention more or my blood pressure may rise. See what I mean? Just. Let. Go.
Wyndham excels in the ability to “overlook.” At times, to be honest, his ability to overlook has actually annoyed me when I didn’t want him to overlook something. But, he is right. He somehow sees right through weaknesses and mistakes to what the best of that person is and can be. I strive to imitate this, but I confess it’s hard sometimes.
Vaneetha, in her blog, shared a well-known story of two monks:
Two monks were walking together when they came across a wealthy, young woman who was trying to cross a large mud puddle. The older monk picked up the woman and carried her across the puddle, placing her safely on the other side. The woman said not a word of thanks.
The monks walked back to the monastery in silence, but hours later, as they neared their destination, the younger one said to the older, “I still can’t believe she didn’t thank you. That woman was so ungrateful.”
The older monk responded, “I put her down hours ago. Why are you still carrying her?”
Good question, right?
And, wisdom is willing to be overlooked.
God is an overlooker in various ways.
I’m grateful that as God “overlooks” his creation—while sin is serious and does not go unpunished (read Hebrews 10:29 in the Message), His grace, given through Jesus, overlooks the offenses of all who are in Christ.
Instead of seeing the sin, he sees the love and service of those who follow Jesus. I’m eternally grateful that God, through Jesus, overlooks my sin—and yet amazingly doesn’t overlook my heart or service. Wow.
For God is not unjust; he will not overlook your work and the love that you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. (Hebrews 6:10 NRSV)
As I think about wisdom “overlooking,” I envision stopping at our favorite “overlook” to view the rocky coast where the sea often sparkles like diamonds. (We once saw a whale in this spot.) However, as I step outside preparing to enjoy God’s majesty, I miss the whole beautiful scene because I become focused on a bag of litter that someone threw on the ground…and indignant about the thoughtlessness of the litterer as I “valiantly” clean up what they left behind. What a sad scene this becomes.
What a shame to focus on the litter and miss such a glorious sight.
Wisdom overlooks. Will we?