I did it again the other day: I judged a book by its cover.
I looked at the stack of books (which actually happened to be a room full of humans), and I judged said books by their covers. I believed I knew the words written inside, the myriad make-up of sentences and periods and entire paragraphs contained within its many pages. I imagined a singular message present within the message of their books, messages related to worldview and political belief systems and even relationships to the God of the universe – if, of course, this stack of inanimate objects actually held life between its pages.
There’s more to the story, of course, but realizing how my assumptions blocked me from fully knowing these humans and from these humans from fully knowing me grieved me at the core when I put it all together.
As tears rolled down my face, I wondered what it might look like to tear entire covers off the books on my shelves.
As my voice struggled to choke out sentences, my insides begged for the chance to start over, for new eyes to see and new ears to hear.
And as my chest heaved with the pain of that moment, a flood of memories filled my mind – memories of how I’ve been hurt in the past when people have judged me by my cover.
Of course, seeing people for the fullness of their identity is easier said than done. Although I desperately want to learn how to color outside the lines and see my fellow humans with a blank slate, ready to be filled in by the wonder that is them, it doesn’t happen overnight.
And existing as a human in the world today doesn’t make it any easier for the human in me to honor the human in you.
If you and I were sit down for a cup of coffee, chances are we’d soon land on the topic of social media. I’d tell you how taking six weeks off this summer made me so over the whole thing, maybe because I realized how much real, live, fleshy connections matter.
My time away made me crave real and authentic relationships, not what felt like canned content created for my audience or for who Facebook, Instagram and Twitter think I want to see.
(Curious as to what I’m talking about when I mention social media algorithms? Facebook decides for what content you want to see. Instagram favors certain posts more highly than others and puts them “higher” your news feed. Twitter, whose algorithm is constantly changing, ranks popular tweets so you don’t miss a single thing).
But if I crave authenticity and if I desire to not judge a book by its cover while living in a technology-dominated world, then I do have to intentionally practice staring in wonder at our stardust selves.
Mihee Kim-Kort, author of the new release Outside the Lines says it this way:
We are all an amalgamation of stories and dreams, histories and genetics, easily affected by lunar cycles, barometric pressure, and sunshine. We’re made of stardust, and each of us is a complicated mashup of ancestors, cultures, ideologies, and time period. We are created in the image of the one who is named “I am who I am,” and somehow we are called to the same work of creation, of imagining, of redeeming, of calling out, of sanctifying, of living and moving throughout this world (35).
Oh, the wonder of our stardust selves – the myriad stories and cultures and histories that makes us, well, us. And I don’t know about you, but I want to wonder at the wonder, especially when the world around me begs me to do the opposite, to judge books by covers and only fill my time (and my news feed) with other humans who think like I think and believe like I believe and vote like I vote.
But this is no way to live, I dare say, for this is not believing that God is really, actually bigger than the boundaries we create around ourselves and the world around us.
So, what do you say?
I don’t know about you, but I want to rip off the book covers. I want to lean into the deep intricacies of personhood. And I want be our bravest, kindest selves in a time and place that begs us to do otherwise.
I do hope you’ll join me.
How are you ripping off the book covers of the fellow humans around you? Also, if you haven’t read Mihee’s book yet, I dare you to give it a go. (Also, check out last month’s Q&A post if you want to know more!) It’ll change you and make you think, I’m telling you!
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