Backwards Bumper-Stickers
Karen Ehman

"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.'" I Samuel 16:7 (ESV)

Yesterday, when I was finished running—okay, so it was more of a slow trot—anyway, as I was leaving the gym where I work out, I ran into an old friend. She is a woman who attended the church where my husband was on staff twenty years ago when we were first married. She was raising her kids when he was the youth pastor and she saw us begin our family with the birth of our daughter Mackenzie, who is soon to turn 19.

Naturally, the conversation turned to where her children are now—marriage, kids, careers, location, etc. She asked what the future held for our three kids. Where would they go to college? What career path would they choose? She has offspring who all ended up in high-paying, prestigious careers, including one who is a prominent surgeon.

That afternoon encounter made me think about what we say 'success' is, especially when it comes to our sons and daughters. Is it having kids who grow up to do a job that society deems important? How do we measure success in our kids when they are still young and in our homes? Is it by having ones who are outwardly obedient, saying 'yes ma'am' and 'no sir' and 'pleased to meet you' on cue?

The more seasoned I become as a mom, the more I find this to be true: obedience, while it manifests itself in outward actions, begins in the heart. While I want to teach my kids to behave—sometimes not an easy lesson to instill—more importantly, I want to teach them to have their hearts right with God.

I used to want kids who did no wrong. Now, I have a different goal. When they do do wrong—as all kids and adults sometimes do—I want them to correct it rather than hide it. To be sensitive to the times they hurt someone's feelings or disobey God and His wishes. Then to listen to the Spirit's prompting, admit their fault, and right the wrong. I want the very same thing for myself.

As today's verse asserts, so often we humans look at what we can see on the outside—beauty, talents, smarts and such. God sees straight to the heart—motives, intent and character. His measuring stick is far more accurate and important than ours. So many spend countless hours and dollars perfecting the former while completely ignoring the latter. God's Word to us is clear. Who we are inside is really who we are.

One year, our daughter proudly brought home a bumper sticker we could display on our aging mini-van. Having completed seven years of scripture memory at our church's children's program, her sticker read, "My child earned a Timothy Award in AWANA." She had worked diligently and were we ever proud of her!

However, her younger siblings did not have the same knack for memorization nor the academic leanings she had. They too plugged away at their verses and assignments in the same program but just couldn't quite finish all the requirements for earning that high award and its accompanying bumper sticker.

It made me think, should we only be proud of outward skills and academic outcomes? Perhaps we should be just as pleased with character qualities and whole-hearted attempts that, on the outside, seem to fall short. Maybe we should be just as thrilled to display the following bumper sticker prominently on our family vehicle:

"Proud parent of a kid who nearly flunked math, but whose heart is tender toward the Lord."

Dear Lord, help me strive to please You most with my inward self—my motives, intent and character— and to model for those in my life the importance of doing just that. I want who I am at the core to accurately reflect who You are to the world. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Related Resources:
For more on this topic and a chance to enter an “Inward Beauty” giveaway, visit Karen’s blog

A Life that Says Welcome by Karen Ehman

Do You Know Him?

Mining for Gold in the Heart of Your Child Character Chart by Renee Swope

You Are Special by Max Lucado

Application Steps:
Name two or three people whom you feel display truly beautiful character. What about their personality makes them stand out?

What inward, God-honoring qualities do you most wish you possessed?

Patience? Peace? Self-control? Kindness? Faith? Perseverance? Pick one. Then, search BibleGateway for verses about this quality to memorize.

Power Verses:
I Peter 3:3-4, "Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious." (ESV)

© 2010 by Karen Ehman. All rights reserved.

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Blogger Unknown said...

Incredible post & I really needed it. We have 2 boys, 9 & 8, & the younger has such intensity with sports. He is smaller than his older brother but out does him athleticly. Just yesterday my husband said that he needs to work with the older to help him develop the kill necessary to really go after the tackle or goal kick, like the younger. The thing is, the older really tries & his heart is in it & this I see clearly. I try to make sure that I balance my comments & praise them both, but the younger always has one up on the older. Balance...keeping the heart's treasures in check is so important & the post confirmed what my heart has been feeling. Our older boys is personality is so funny. He signed up for the talent show by himself! The younger is quiet & takes him a long time to get to know others. The older is the opposite. Balance. The younger does great in school...the older struggles with focus & misses the mark often due to not reading the instructions clearly or by writing the right answer but doing a sloppy job & getting it wrong b/c of how it is written.

Thank you again for the post & I will continue praying for our guys' hearts & faith so that they can value each others gifts with out contempt.

In Christ, Pam K.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your post. I think that the fact that my husband is a youth/associate pastor and doesn't have a high income really hit home for me. I think the fact that he is so itelligent in so many areas and he has been offered many other jobs that pay higher makes me think of how I tend to focus on appearance more than I though. He doesn't take them because he knows that is not what God wants him to. That is when I have to be humbled someimes and not the selfish part in me want to come out.He knows that he will be misereable doing anything else. I am so thankful for a moan that Seeks God's face so much when it comes to job situations lke this when it is so tempting to want that. There is this part in me that just wants to be there for a little while just so we won't have any kind of debt and so that our kids will have money for college. That being said I think I find myself trying to make up for not having a higher income sometimes. It is the way the world works... so many people don't want to have much to do with you if you don't have anyting physical to offer them. I say I don't care about this.. but there is a part of me that does and that is the part where Satan is telling me I need that. I in return have to sometimes remember that people rejected Jesus, and judged him by him coming from a family who earthly father was a carpenter. This is not a regular thing that I think about everyday, but recently has been brought to my attention. We have a bus ministry at our church and most of the kids that come in into the church have no parents with them and have little to no tact when it comes mooching off people and sometimes it seems as though they haven't taken a shower in a week! I have a hard time loving these kind of children and teens sometimes, but God has been teaching me so much on this subject and making me realize that it is truely the heart, and I have such an awesome opportunity to show Christ love to them and to help them realize that it truely is the inside where God looks, and they can have a heart that loves Jesus and that will show more character and love for Jesus which is really what truely counts. Thanks for your words today.

In His Hand,

Blogger The 5 C's said...

Thank you for your post...This past weekend it seemed I as was constantly saying "no, don't do that, didn't I tell you no?, stop doing that, come here and sit down, go to your room, you aren't going anywhere until..."ALL the time. We have 3 children and all are so different. Our boy is 9 and is book smart, but common sense is lacking, our daughter 7 is athletic and loves to beat her older brother...can you tell where this is going? Just like the first comment. Trying to find a balance seems sometimes IMPOSSIBLE. Our youngest is almost 3. He is so funny and animated, and I know we let him get away with waay more than we ever did with the other two. Finding its just easier to give in to relieve the whining and fit throwing, tantrums of a 2 year old. Again balance. Thank you for reminding me that I need to be looking "inward" and not "outward". Our culture does that enough for our family that I don't can't, don't, need, to do that!! God definatelly wanted me to see this this post!

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Would you please sell this bumper sticker on your website? I'd love one.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true, I have one child that was an honors student and another one that is having trouble with history, or the teacher in his class. Yet his heart (both their hearts) are so loving. Just yesterday we ministered to a young single mother of 2 and they were the real ones that ministered. I bought all the supplies for an early Easter egg hunt because the mother wasn't going to have her children on Easter. My kids came in and hid all the eggs around the house (because it was raining). I thanked my son afterwards and he said he was glad to do it, he had fun. When he opens his heart like that to others, I don't mind so much that he can't write an essay about the history of the US.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

thank you for offering up the obvious to me today. I have been struggling with discipline with my kids, not that they are particularly bad but that I have lost my way, my consistency and my goal/s for them. I say a big fat YES to teaching them to recognise their 'wrongs' and 'right' them as best they can. I say a big fat YES to teaching them to care enough about others to right relationships that are damaged by our sin/s and to look to our Lord for approval and healing and change. As we approach Easter once again, I thank my God for sending Jesus to make things 'right'! May I cherish this truth again a fresh - thanks for the perspective. God bless.

Anonymous Rebekah said...

I recently discovered this site. Thank you so much for these daily devotions. Everyday it seems to be exactly what i need to hear.
God bless,

Blogger KARUNIA said...

Great devotional... as a motivator for us to show our real life.. ya... sometimes we got struggle to do the actual when the circumstance not as we want but we must to show and do as what we are.... :-) Of course by His leads..

Thank you.

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