Test at Grand Central

Looks can be deceiving.

We are easily beguiled.

Told not to judge by appearances, we do it because we can’t help ourselves.

It’s in our nature to look and decide. So often value is determined by the physical and so often we are wrong.

After his older brothers were rejected, Israel’s greatest king was discovered as an afterthought, a teenager tending sheep.

Well, God told the prophet, just remember, “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7).

On television, The Bachelor took the country by storm, struggling mightily to find a suitable wife from among a dozen or more lovely young women. Himself a handsome, athletic, square-jawed charmer, he is surrounded by so much irresistible beauty he seemed overwhelmed to the point of tears.

We were invited to pity him, flirting and flaunting in so many exotic places with so many gorgeous women.

It’s enough to break your heart.

We are besieged with superficiality at every turn. It‘s a defining sign of our times.

Narcissism reigns, from Hollywood to Washington; from the mega-pulpit to the White House.

In the most famous passage of the Bible describing the ideal wife, we find only one reference to physical beauty. We read about integrity, perseverance, honesty, intelligence, dedication, hard work, wisdom, sound judgment, love and loyalty.

Out of 21 verses, we find a single mention of the physical. It’s a negative one:

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised” (Proverbs 31:31).

That’s not a condemnation of beauty – which is a wonderful gift – it’s a verse about priorities.

John Preston discovered the book of poetry in a used book store in his hometown in rural North Carolina.

As he perused it, he was impressed not so much by the literature itself but by the delicately – penciled comments in the margins.

Thoughtful and sensitive insights John decided.

Inside the front cover he found a woman’s name and address.

John decided to write her.

It was bad timing.

The next day John was shipped out to Korea. He was still determined to make contact.

Despite the war, John wrote the woman again – and again. There was no reply.

Then, just as he was about to give up, he got a letter. She had written.

Graceful, studied and intelligent, she had a ready wit and a fine sense of humor. They developed an active correspondence.

Soon, John was smitten. He excitedly anticipated her every letter.

He asked the woman to send him a picture. He imagined what she must look like and he was naturally eager to confirm his highest expectations.

She was reluctant. If love was meant to be, she told him, looks wouldn’t matter.

They wrote each other throughout the war.

When John arrived home, he and the woman immediately arranged to meet. She lived in upstate New York and so they agreed to meet at Grand Central Station in New York City.

The meeting was set for 7:00 P.M. John arrived five hours early. He had brought her last letter with him. And the book of poetry he now so treasured.

“You’ll know me by the small red rose I’ll be wearing in my lapel,” she had written.

As the clock moved them closer to their destiny, John could hardly contain his anticipation.

And then he saw her.

Whatever he had imagined she looked like, this woman exceeded it. Tall, perfectly formed, and stylishly attired, she moved with grace and confidence. Her dark auburn hair cascaded around the most beautiful face he had ever seen.

She was simply stunning. As she walked towards him, he noticed her creamy complexion and then her riveting green eyes.

John caught his breath and rose to greet her.

Then his heart suddenly stalled. He quickly searched her lapel.

There was no rose.

John was so stunned he barely noticed her smile as she slid by him and said, “Going my way soldier?”

How desperately he wanted to turn and follow this young and graceful beauty.

He didn’t.

A few yards behind the beautiful woman, John saw another. She stood there expectantly.

She was a bit short and on the slightly stout side. Her face, though unadorned, was kind and friendly. She was wearing a plain sweater and printed dress. She carried a pocketbook.

She was a bit older than John thought she’d be.

This woman was wearing a small red rose in her lapel. John knew this was a test. This is why she didn’t send him a picture. But he knew what was inside and that was more than enough.

He smiled and embraced her.

“Would you like to go to dinner?”

The woman seemed confused.

“Look son,” she told John, “I don’t know what this is all about. But that young woman who just walked by came up to me about ten minutes ago and asked me to put this red rose in my lapel. Then she said that if you asked me out to dinner, I should tell you that she’ll be waiting for you in the restaurant across the street.”

The woman smiled.

“She said it was some kind of test.”

Celebrate the inner beauty first.

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