Our character written all over our faces

Curtis Shelburne

“At [the age of] 50,” writes George Orwell, “everyone has the face he deserves.” Well, that kinda hurts, largely because I suspect it’s true!

Not long ago, I happened to rush past a mirror at church, shot it a quick glance, and then almost broke my neck in the subsequent double-take. Somebody else was looking back from that mirror!

I might not have been all that surprised to see one of my brothers staring back. A couple of us have been told many times that we look alike. What I didn’t expect, though, was to see Granddaddy Key looking at me out of that glass! Good grief! When did that happen!?

On one hand, the experience is all the more pointed because it was so utterly unexpected. Such completely unbidden “lightning strike” impressions are usually accurate impressions.

On the other hand, I take a little comfort in the fact that I’ve looked in the mirror since then, and all I’ve seen is some obvious resemblance, not the dear man himself. Character-wise, I’ll never be that good. Physically speaking, I’m sure that reflection was indeed a sign of things to come. I’m just hoping that maybe I was really tired that day. I’m 54, and my grandfather in that mirror was older than that! Back to the gym, Curt, and quickly! And maybe a little Grecian Formula? Nah!

I’ll never forget a fascinating seminar I attended one day in which the subject was “face-reading.” The presenter was an expert in “reading” the physical characteristics of the human face. He purported to be able to look at facial features and come up with a fairly accurate description of at least some important characteristics of the person “behind” it.

I was fairly skeptical when the seminar began, but I was interested. I knew that the guy was regularly paid pretty handsomely by lawyers to “read” the faces of jurors. And I admit that the longer I listened to him and the more examples of his craft that I perused, the more convinced I became that there is at least some validity in what he claims to do.

It probably follows, by the way, that faces over 50 are easier canvases to “read” than younger faces not yet as “painted” by life and all the experiences and attitudes that come with years.

You don’t have to be an expert to engage in some “face reading.” We do it all the time. We recognize laugh lines, furrows of worry, scars of bitterness, or the cold tell-tale marks of hatred. They show, and consciously or not, we react to what we see.

Just last week I “read” one of the most beautiful faces I’ve ever seen. It was the face of Mickade Hall Shelburne, my first, my brand new, grandson. I hope he liked the face of his grandfather. I know I liked his. I won’t be around to see what, by age 50, he has done with it. God grant that it always be a fine face etched unmistakably with his Creator’s love and joy.

Curtis Shelburne is pastor of 16th & Ave. D. Church of Christ in Muleshoe. Contact him at ckshel@aol.com