As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. (Proverbs 27:19 NIV)
In a group setting several years ago, the instructor divided us into teams to play a simple game of checkers. The only catch was we were not allowed to communicate verbally while playing. We could use any other means at our disposal to convey our wishes; we just couldn’t speak. Smiles and nods were exchanged as the exercise progressed, as you might expect, but when my turn came my mood soured, and I grew testy when the instructor reached over to prompt me by lightly touching me on the arm. I responded impatiently by shrugging off this gesture.
Apparently, what the instructor was trying to illustrate to us was the value of recognizing the variety of nonverbal cues which pass between us over the normal course of human contact, whether it be a casual encounter or in a serious relationship. No doubt she wanted to point out just how advantageous it would be for us to hone the skill of attuning ourselves to these signs. It requires the kind of attention which comes with close observation, but in order to be put to its greatest use, it requires a degree of concern and care for the other person.
Chances are I never would have revisited that memory had it not been for an incident I witnessed several weeks ago where the subject lived his entire life interpreting people’s behavior based on visual signals. At first, I didn’t see anything different about the man. He was very attractive with gray hair that just clipped his shoulders, but this isn’t what attracted my attention. It was the fact he was so animated. Only then did I pick up on the fact he was gesturing because he was deaf and he wasn’t using sign language to communicate, just his face and hands. He was trying to point out to the lady traveling with him just how vain and inconsequential it seemed for her to be primping from her reflection in the car window just to go into the grocery store. They both laughed, sharing a moment I was lucky enough to be “listening in on.” Any mime would be envious of his considerable skills.
Where I, with all five of my senses intact had failed in that game of silent checkers years before, this man was taking full advantage of all the resources God had given him to deftly draw his companion into a conversation of warmth and humor. His enthusiasm was catching. It fed my spirit as I am sure it did hers.
The contrast between our two responses to being deprived of one of our senses couldn’t have been more stark. The deaf man’s playful but genuine manner reflected an open, receptive heart, while my negative reaction to the instructor’s touch revealed a heart shuttered to the touch of others. The difference was he was thinking about his friend, while, I, I am ashamed to say, was only concerned with myself. God wants us to be open to experiences with others to broaden our outlook, not shut ourselves off by shying away from them.
Dear Father, Please help us approach life with an open heart so we may experience all your glorious earth has to offer. Amen