The woman standing next to me peered closely at a row of seed packets in front of us and scoffed in disdain.
Morning glory? That’s a weed. Why on earth would anyone ever buy that?
With a shake of her head, she collected the packets of flower and vegetable seed she had chosen and headed toward the front of the store.
A few moments later I smiled and picked up a packet of morning glory seed for my cart, chuckling a little under my breath.
Now, I knew where the lady was coming from. Growing up, I spent hours upon hours weeding “morning glory” out of our Midwestern backyard garden. Here in Utah as well, my biggest gardening nemesis is that same weed we commonly called “morning glory.”
But here’s the thing: That cursed weed isn’t actually morning glory, but bindweed.
Though both are members of the plant family Convolvulaceae, field bindweed’s true classification is Convolvulus ravens, while my favorite varieties of morning glory are Ipomoea violacea and Ipomoea purpurea. Despite its similar appearance, ornamental morning glory is more closely related to sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) than bindweed.
We may call bindweed “morning glory” all the day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that the two plants are not the same.
We do that with people sometimes, too.
In his final novel The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck wrote:
I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.
It’s such a thought provoking statement, loaded with wisdom at its core. How many times do we look at an individual or situation and make snap judgments without really seeing their true nature?
People love to classify. Not just plants, but everything.
We like to have our labeling system firmly in place as we make our way through the world. We judge people, places, things through the lens of our own experience. And sometimes we get it wrong.
Utterly and completely wrong.
Earlier this week I was judged quite severely by two strangers who didn’t know anything about me, had never met me before, and quite likely will never meet me again. It was a humiliating and emotionally crushing experience for me, and even now my wounds are still a little raw.
The details aren’t important. I’m trying to forgive, move on, and let it go.
But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it just yet.
How many times have I looked at someone in difficult circumstances and made assumptions that were completely unwarranted? How many times have I mistaken morning glory for bindweed?
The cashier with the blank stare suffering from anxiety and depression?
The mom at the end of her emotional rope yelling at her kids in the grocery store?
The rude bank teller worried about a terminally ill family member?
The aggressive driver on the highway who was just laid off from his job?
How many times?
I love these words from Ardeth G. Kapp:
We see what we are looking for– burdens or blessings, weeds or flowers, and sometimes we need help from the One who sees all things as they really are.
We see others through an imperfect lens. And though we may have the best of intentions and think we know everything that is going on, the truth of the matter is that only God sees perfectly. Only He that looks on the heart knows of the reality beating softly inside all of His children. And still He chooses love.
Perhaps that should be our first inclination as well.