I took this picture a few days ago. For unknowns reasons, this mature Bald Eagle let me approach much closer than I expected. I got this shot as it flew away. The magnificence of America's National Bird grows as its distance from you shrinks. The closer you get, the more impressive it is.
I've discovered the same is true of people. Proximity brings clarity. The closer you get, the more you see details and specifics; the closer you are, the better your observations. Vague generalities become exact details as you draw near.
Those perceived as powerful and strong (upon closer examination) may be observed to be even more so. Conversely, those who seem to be shady and unreliable may be discovered to be even more untrustworthy (and dangerous) than first imagined.
Pay attention. It's not as difficult to gain understanding as you may think. I've got a few simple suggestions:
- Check their wake.
Look at the bodies they've left behind. Is their history filled with hurt people and shattered lives? Have they blessed those they've touched? The Psalmist was able to say, "Goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life." Are goodness and mercy in their wake?
- Notice their closest friends.
The Bible says, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'" We're all influenced by those we choose as our trusted companions. The people you choose as your closest and dearest friends say something about you.
- Look at their feet.
Which way are they pointed? Are they taking steps toward God? Will their next step lead them toward Christ? The Bible says God set before us "life and death, blessings and curses" and we are to choose which way we will go. Which way have they chosen to go?
- Watch them long enough to gauge their trajectory.
Every person who ever made a New Year's resolution knows this; momentum matters and it's not easy to change direction. You see that truth as each chapter of their story builds on the impetus of their previous chapters. Proverbs tells us to "walk in the way of good men and keep the paths of the consistently righteous." Don't make snap judgments. If you keep your eye on someone for a while you can trace the arc of their unfolding story. What does it tell you?
Close examination reveals strength or weakness. It distinguishes wisdom from immaturity. When we pay attention God doesn't only show us where the good way is, God also reveals those who walk in it ... and those who don't.
This is what the Lord says:
“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
and you will find rest for your souls."