In this week’s Sunday school lesson, Christ returns to Galilee to preach the gospel to His friends and neighbors (Luke 4:14-32). But instead of receiving the word of the Savior of mankind, they can only ask “Is not this Joseph’s son?” I began to wonder how many times we refuse to see the possibilities another person might have due to what we are so sure we ‘know’.
Over and over again, we hear how important first impressions are. Although we are told not to judge a book by its cover – not to be bound by those first impressions – overcoming them can be quite difficult. Once we have decided that this is how a person is, or who a person is, or who they are not, relinquishing those views can be quite difficult.
In Galilee, the people struggled with the idea that a man they knew as the son of a carpenter could be the promised Messiah. In New York, others struggled with the concept that a fourteen year old boy they knew could be called as a prophet. Other prophets have faced similar battles against preconceptions. Christ noted that “No prophet is accepted in his own country” (Luke 4:24).
Have you ever had someone called as a bishop or Relief Society president who you thought was totally unfit for the position? Perhaps you questioned the reasons behind the calling. Perhaps you remembered slights or offenses – great or small – and stubbornly refused to let go of them. You could not see this person in such a spiritual role, and so denied yourself the blessings that might have come with following their inspired counsel.
Similarly, I can see this happening with my children at times. Although mine are small, they have distinct personalities, and so sometimes I expect them to continue their lives in the same way they have for the past few years. My daughter, for instance, loves to perform before an audience of one to three people. She will act absolutely ridiculous in front of a small group of adults, showing off, singing, dancing, whatever. But when you put her in front of the ward for the Primary program, she is paralyzed with fear. The first time this happened, I was taken completely by surprise and became impatient. Over time, I came to realize that this same outgoing child was terrified by stage fright (believe me, if you knew this girl, you, too, would be surprised; I discussed it with her Primary President a few weeks ago, and she, also, was startled). I had to realign my thinking about my expectations of her.
Okay, so how you treat your child isn’t the same as how you treat a prophet – or is it? Rejecting a prophet of God has eternal consequences, but so does parenthood. Refusing to accept the calling of one of Heavenly Father’s children and judging another one based on their words or actions (especially if it leads to you denying them blessings or help when needed) have similar consequences.
A few weeks ago, we had a Relief Society lesson on the gift of being “quick to observe.” One of the gifts this was linked to was the spirit of discernment which, among other things, enabled a person to see others not just for what they are but for what their divine potential might be. Although I have not yet been able to study and ponder this wonderful spiritual gift, it is one I would love to have in my life. As such a holder, we would be close to the Spirit and able to see the possibilities in those around us. I encourage you, too, to study and seek after this gift, that you might be able to see the potential in the people you encounter.