One of the first presents I got after Matthew and I were engaged was from my mother. She had bought me a set of pots and pans. They were Revereware, and were way too expensive for me to buy for myself. They were pretty expensive for my mom to buy too, except that she got them on sale. The store was having a huge “Scratch and Dent” sale. Everything for sell had a flaw and was appropriately discounted. My mom figured they’d be scratched and/or dented after I used them a few times anyway, so she got me quite an array of pots and pans. I still have them all. Twenty-two years later.
Maybe it’s something I learned from my mom, but I love “scratch and dent” or “as is” sales in stores. You know going into it that the items have flaws. Rarely does the store tell you where the flaws are, but it doesn’t usually take long to find them. They are usually pretty obvious. Then you have to decide if the flaw is something you can live with. Lots of things don’t have to be pristine to still be useful.
People are like that. We should all come with an “As is” sticker attached to us. We are flawed, and it usually doesn’t take others too long to find those flaws. Maybe it’s a short fuse, or an overly sentimental heart. Perhaps there’s a tendency toward the white lie, or for procrastination. Isn’t it funny how we decide in our minds which flaws we will put up with and which ones we won’t?
I’ll bet you have heard a girlfriend speaking of another friend’s spouse:
“I just don’t know how she puts up with that. I couldn’t stand that for a single minute!”
Be honest. Have you been the one to say that? I have.
We choose spouses, friends, and others we desire to spend time with based upon which flaws we are willing to deal with. The others we put as much distance between them and us as we possibly can.
But what if we can’t put that distance? What if a difficult flaw has attached itself to a coworker or family member? How do we manage that? I can tell you, as you probably well know already, that’s a hard one. We are commanded to love the unlovely. Nowhere in Scripture does it say we can refuse to love someone because of their flaws.
I have recently been thrust into the close proximity of someone with some challenging flaws. My path crosses with this one person on a regular basis. I would have to make some really drastic changes to alter this fact. I began to dread the encounters with this person days before they were to happen. I could imagine my frustration in advance, and it would ruin my day…. And I wasn’t even with that person yet!
I decided to take my problem to the Lord. (Good idea, I know) My first pleas were to have God remove this person from my path. After all, he put them there, he could remove them. So I asked, and I waited.
It became clear to me… eventually… that removal was not to be the solution. So then I went back to God, this time with a more open mind. I said, “Okay. So you are not going to remove them… What shall I do?”
My answer? My answer was that I was supposed to love them. Oh boy. I argued a bit. Reminded him how unloveable this person could be. I reminded him just how annoying their flaws were to me. I did a lot of heavy sighing.
Slowly the change came. Slowly my heart began to change. That person did not change. Not really. But I changed. I began to invest in this person rather than wishing they would disappear. Are they still flawed? Oh yes. Do their flaws still bother me? Absolutely. But God is giving me the ability to deal with it. I no longer dread our paths crossing. I don’t look forward to it with eager anticipation either, but at least I don’t dread it anymore.
A funny thought occurred to me through this experience. I wondered how many people in my life were willing to overlook my flaws to stick with me? As I look around at my family, friends, co-workers, and others… I realize that’s a lot of people!
And the best thing that came to mind was how that even in the midst of my flaws, God still saw fit to love me. He loved me in spite of my scratches and dents. He loves me enough to help me improve… to help me de-flaw.
I think the flaws we see in others will always influence us. I think there will always be imperfections in others we are just not willing to put up with, and sometimes, unfortunately, the nature of some flaws warrants that. But for those minor, garden-variety flaws, I know he can help change our hearts. He can help us see past those flaws to the person he loves so much, and help us love them “as is”.