Coach Dave Johnson is an interesting man to say the least. The father of four played center at University of West Virginia and after a few coaching stops became my tight ends coach at University of Georgia in 2001. From that point on our tight end room was a special place. In a “bottom line” business, he cared more about his players’ souls then their stats. In an atmosphere of Christian “lip service” he walked the walk. He wasn’t perfect, but his heart was in the right place. His goal was to teach us football but more importantly to teach us integrity and how to become real men.
In our meeting room we each had our own chair with one of those attached rotating desktops. You know, the kind you pull up to sit down and then pull back down across your lap. The chair was black plastic but the desktop was a light brown wood…or so we thought. You see, the desktop had a layer of veneer. It had the appearance of wood but underneath the thin layer was a core of particle board. In this case, things were not as they appeared. In fact, over time, the thin outer layer of wood started to peel back and we could see the true substance of the desk.
Coach Johnson would challenge us not live a life of veneers, but to live a life of integrity and truth. He wanted us to be men who stood behind their word, who practiced what they preached and for that matter; knew WHAT to preach. I’d love to tell you that we all took his word to heart and lived it 100 percent but I’d be lying. The truth is that whether we heeded his words or not, Coach Johnson planted seeds that were not soon forgotten. His living example spoke louder than his words and non of us who passed through that tight end room left unchanged.
When God rejected Saul as king of Israel, he sent the prophet Samuel to anoint David as his successor. When he arrived in Bethlehem, he saw Jesse’s first born son Eliab and thought “Surely the Lords anointed stands here.” The Lord responded, “Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” It is the heart that really matters to God.
I don’t know what Eliab’s personal life was like but I do know that every one around him thought he had it going on. He had the physical attributes that every man…(and woman) wants. He was tall dark and handsome (probably like yours truly!). He had all the PC (Pedestal Characteristics) the nation could want in a king. He probably had a great resume amongst the other young professionals of his time. Yet God, instead of choosing the man with the square jaw and broad shoulders, chose the runt of the litter who was out herding his father’s sheep. Young David was by no means perfect , but he had a heart that sought after God.
We spend so much time maintaining our outward appearance, building our reputations and cultivating peoples perceptions of us that we sometimes lose sight of what really matters. If our hearts are spiritually anemic and cold, what good does it do if we are perceived as the perfect Christians? God sees our depravity and shakes his head as if to say ‘Who you think you foolin? I know you, I made you, I know your issues, I know your sin and you’re not alone..” Those of us in emotional pain hide behind expensive clothes and cars. We put up a tough, aggressive façade when the truth is that we are weak and fearful beyond measure. Each of us has wounds but we put up veneers around our hurts that prevent true healing. “Everything is fine” we say, when asked how we are doing, flashing a pearly white smile. I’m not saying that we spill our guts to any and everyone but many of us are starved for meaningful relationship, trust and intimacy. Deep down we yearn for unconditional love and acceptance. Rest assured you are not alone. Whether your veneer is protecting a secret sin in your life or serving as a scab over a deep wound, only Christ can give you the confidence to face your truth and receive forgiveness or restoration.
Eliminating the veneers in our lives will happen as we grow from the inside out. When it’s all said and done, it’s our integrity of character that people will remember. It’s our integrity of character that will lead the unbeliever to repentance. It’s our integrity of character that God truly wants to use to glorify Himself. It’s not easy, but our goal should be to become solid wood. That what others see on the outside is merely a reflection of what is truly on our inside. That the work of our hands and the speech of our lips reflect the beat of our hearts and the conviction of our soul.
Rest assured that like the peeling veneer, our true self will eventually be exposed for all to see. As President Lincoln once said: You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.
And as I’m sure Coach Johnson would add, ”You can fool God NONE of the time!”
Further Reading: 1 Samuel 16