The other day I couldn’t find my wallet. I searched everywhere. I wandered from room to room looking for it. Then I went back through every room in the house looking for it again. I looked in my car. Finally I moved to the sofa to see if somehow it had fallen between the seat cushions. I pulled up the cushion where I normally sit. I was taken aback by what I found.
Under the cushion I found lots of crusty bits of undetermined origin. There was a water bottle cap, three pretzels, and a kernel of popcorn. There was also a potato chip – a whole, unbroken potato chip. It boggles my mind how a potato chip managed to sneak into the crack between the cushions and then navigate under the cushion without being broken. If it had been in the shape of the Virgin Mary, I would have said it was a miracle. Then I would have sold it on eBay. But I digress. The point is, it was a mess under that cushion. I couldn’t believe how bad it was. But still there was no wallet.
Next, I got down on my knees to look under the sofa to see if perchance the wallet had fallen on the floor. Perhaps it was under the couch. I scanned beneath the sofa. There was no wallet. There was, however, enough dust under there to start a community garden. I don’t know if I have ever vacuumed under there. It was a pile of dust. The wood floor was completely coated in a dull grey mat. Something lumpy near the end of the sofa caught my eye, and I scooted down to that end to see what it was. I’m pretty sure it was the mummified carcass of a gecko. Poor guy!
All this got me to thinking about what lies beneath. I normally keep a pretty clean house. I don’t like clutter. I spend a few moments each evening before I go to bed picking up the house. In the morning I have a fresh start. On the surface, my house looks pretty good. But when you look a little deeper, say beneath the sofa, it gets filthy fast.
As I considered this, I thought about my own life as well. It is natural to want to present a good appearance. I brush my teeth, comb my hair, and put on some deodorant before I leave the house. I want to look good and smell good. However, if we are not careful, we can focus on keeping everything in order on the outside, but miss what matters to God. The heart is what matters to him. What matters to God is what lies beneath. Consider this verse:
“The LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, ESV).
God doesn’t look at things the way we do. He’s looking at what lies beneath.
David is the most famous king Israel has ever had. His kingdom is still the benchmark in Israel’s history. In his old age, David turned the kingdom over to his son, Solomon. As he addressed Solomon and the people, he said this:
“Know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought” (1 Chronicles 28:9, ESV).
David’s kingdom was renowned for its wealth and splendor. Solomon’s kingdom eventually looked even more impressive. On the outside, his wealth was jaw-dropping. People came from all over the world to see the buildings he constructed. How exciting it must have been. But issues behind the scenes eventually caused the kingdom to fall.
It can happen in ministries and churches. God is not impressed by large ministries or beautiful buildings. It can also happen with individuals. He’s not impressed by nice looking clothes and hair combed just right. Often what we think is important has little interest to him. He’s looking beneath the surface. Sometimes what he sees is alarming. Sometimes he sees pride. Sometimes he sees greed. Sometimes he sees lust and pornography. Sometimes he sees envy. Sometimes he sees selfish ambition. He searches our hearts. He understands every plan and thought we have.
The problem is we tend to focus on the externals far more than what is inside. We do it when we look at our own lives, and we do it when we look at the lives of others. We tend to focus on how things look. But God is interested in the areas that are not seen by the human eye. He is interested in areas of the heart and the mind.
When I am focused on keeping the externals in order, I can become a caricature of a true follower of Jesus. It is just an outline with nothing inside. It looks kind of like a follower of Jesus, but at its heart it is completely empty.
Instead, I intentionally focus on what is inside, my personal relationship with God. This is what David was referring to in his words to his son Solomon. “Know the God of your father…” Get to know him. Foster a tight relationship with him. Spend time with him. In the Hebrew language the word he uses for “know” is the same word used to describe an intimate relationship between a husband and a wife. For example, Genesis 4:1 says, “Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” This is an intimate relationship we are talking about here! Be one with God!
If we are not careful, we can spend so much time and effort trying to keep up appearances. How sad! I can focus on making sure the externals are right, while my heart is still a mess. Instead, when I focus on making sure the heart is right, the externals take care of themselves. Take care of the parts no one sees, and God will transform the parts that everyone does see.
I eventually found my wallet. It was on top of an end table, right where I had left it. I shook my head when I realized it was hiding in plain sight. But I was grateful I had taken the time to search for it. In the process of searching, I found an area that needed addressing. I hope you will do the same. Today, take time to look a little deeper. What areas of your life do you need to bring into the light? What area of your life do you need to clean today? Perhaps you should get on your knees, look underneath the surface, and address anything you find.
Remember, what matters to God is what lies beneath.
This article was originally published in the May 2016 Newsletter.