Imagine a tablet of paper sitting on the shelf at the store waiting for someone to buy it and take it home or to the office with them. Or perhaps there is just a single sheet of paper, laying on the desk next to a pen.
Perhaps it will soon become a child’s math homework. Perhaps it is destined to become a letter from a wife sending her love and kisses to her husband who is deployed to some far away war zone. Who knows, it might even become the rough draft of a sermon or newspaper article. At that moment, before someone picks up the pen and starts writing, the paper’s future is filled with a swirling cloud of maybes, could be and what ifs. The options are seemingly unlimited.
One such sheet of paper became part of the first draft of Tom Clancy’s first novel, “The Hunt for Red October.” But even when the last word had been written, when there was nothing left to say, the paper’s fate was far from certain.
When people go to the bookstore looking for something to read the first thing they do is look at the cover. Many interesting and enjoyable books go unread because the cover failed to grab our attention. Of course, the opposite is true as well. Many oinkers find their way into our shopping basket and onto our reading list simply because the cover made promises that the book failed to deliver.
Some people I know read the last few pages first just to get an idea where the story is going. However, no matter how you choose a book, whether you start at the beginning or read the ending first, the only way to get the full story is to read the entire book from start to finish.
In one sense people are a lot like books. We each have a story, and there is almost always more to a person’s story than what we see at a quick glance. We each have secrets and none of us are perfect. Making mistakes, breaking God’s commandments and sinning are just part of being human. What that person does or says in one chapter of their lives never tells the whole story.
Saul/Paul is a good example. Saul is a devout man, devoted to God, and he is on a mission. When we first meet him, Saul is on his way to arrest as many Christians as he could find. Then one day he encountered Jesus, and everything changed. He spent the rest of his life preaching the good news of the gospel, started churches far and wide, and became arguably the greatest Christian theologian of all time.
Only God knows the whole story, knows what a person has been, is, and will eventually become. Too bad we can’t do the same. But perhaps we could start by trying to see others as God sees them and look for the good in others.
John R. Fowler is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Prosper.