During a particularly turbulent time in our family, we woke up one morning to find a fox curled up in our garden. Perfectly nestled between two rose bushes and sheltering under an ash tree, it emanated such peace and tranquillity, that it captivated our attention. We marvelled at its silken red coat glistening in the sun and caught delicious glimpses of a furry white underbelly, as it punctuated regular naps with bouts of grooming, stretching and sunbathing. This unexpected visitor made itself at home as if it had always belonged with us, and we immediately experienced a tangible sense of hope and comfort.
Instinctively, we knew this was no ordinary event and felt it was deeply symbolic. A little research revealed that Native American and Celtic cultures view the fox as a guide on a destined path, whilst the Chinese view a sighting as a signal from the spirit of a deceased one. This was so wonderfully at odds with the familiar image of a fox as a sly, cunning and crafty animal. Yet, nothing could be further from the truth as we gazed at this gentle creature, radiating innocence and vulnerability, as it took refuge in the sanctity of our garden. We wondered how this beautiful species had become the object of so much contempt and enmity, when it was simply trying to survive in a hostile world. It struck me then, that this was also the approach we took with people. We often labelled people based solely on their appearance because it suited our narrative or was simply convenient.
However, God calls us to a higher standard and encourages us to look beyond the surface. The Bible says, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). This message is replicated in Islam where the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) said, “Allah does not look at your appearance or wealth, but rather He looks at your hearts and actions”. Admittedly, I’m as guilty as the next person of judging a book by its cover, but have learnt the error of my ways. Many a time, I’ve had to revise opinions founded on hasty judgements, and have come to recognise that there is indeed something special about everyone, just waiting to be discovered.
God created each of us as precious jewels but our value can’t be seen by the naked eye. Just as a jeweller uses a loupe to examine gemstones, we need to delve deeper to discover the diamond within. With some, it’s easy to spot the gifts they’ve been endowed with, whether it’s leadership in the workplace or culinary skills at the dinner table. But with others, a little more effort is required. In my experience, it’s the quiet ones who have the most to offer. They happily relinquish the limelight to let the extroverts take centre-stage, quietly content to stay in the shadows. They downplay their achievements and carry themselves with humility and understatement. These too are gifts, but they’re overlooked in a world which exalts self-promoters and dismisses diffidence. That’s why God asks us to look at a person’s heart – because that’s where the treasure is buried.