Perception or Deception?
by Janice Price
Many parents and grandparents write about those “aha!” moments their children and grandchildren give them. I don’t have children or grandchildren so God uses other means to give me “aha!” moments. He often uses my pets.
My puppy Buddy weights over twenty pounds and he is barely three months of age. I’m trying to teach him to calm down before he breaks something or injures himself in his hysteria over having a door between us. One of the methods I use is to occasionally take both dogs in the car with me when I have a quick stop to make.
One day recently the weather was cool and breezy. It was ideal for a training session. I parked well away from other cars in the Wal-Mart parking lot so Buddy wouldn’t disturb other people, rolled the windows down a bit and walked to the bank with Buddy’s pitiful cries following me the first few dozen steps. There was no line, so I was in and out of the bank in a couple of minutes. I walked over to where I could check on the dogs without them knowing I was around, then made another quick stop in a dollar store to pick up some chew bones for the dogs.
I walked back to check on the dogs again. Buddy was asleep on my cushion behind the steering wheel. Merci was curled up on the back seat. The moment he realized I was near, Buddy started crying and beating on a window. I opened a door to toss them each a treat and headed for a quick stop at Wal-Mart.
An older woman approached, visibly upset, and said, “I saw you looking at those dogs in that car too. I’m very concerned about them. They’ve been left alone in that car for a looooong time and the owner hasn’t come back for them.”
This woman obviously has a kind heart, but her perception of this particular circumstance was wrong. Buddy’s loud cries were not, Help me, I’m dying in here, but, I’m spoiled and I demand you either take me with you or you get right back in the car this instant! Once he realized he wasn’t going to get his own way, he climbed into the front seat and went to sleep.
Things are not always as we perceive them to be. Sometimes we are gullible and are deceived by others, either intentionally or indirectly, but often we deceive ourselves. Our concept of time can be off because we allow an emotional response to cloud our thinking, as in “They’ve been left alone in that car for a looooong time,” or, “I’ve been waiting a looooong time for God to help me with this problem.” (Hey, Jan, you just asked him this morning.)
Sometimes we perceive things to be a certain way because we don’t want to have to change our way of thinking or our way of living, but God calls us to change and to obedience. We can’t live with one foot over the fence in the world and the other foot dangling in God’s kingdom. If we don’t make a decision on our own about which side of the fence has the most attractive grass, we’re going to fall off the fence entirely. Since the Spiritual side of the fence requires a decision and a commitment, guess which side of the fence we would then land? It won’t be an accident. It will be because we have made our choice, but we can be adept at deceiving ourselves that we are living in the Spirit even after we’ve fallen off the fence.
Do we perceive God as angry or loving? We can be deceived in this also. Our perception of God can be shaped by our own experiences in life and by our own church’s teachings. I had a hard time understanding the concept of God’s love, after years in a church that taught legalism and perfect obedience to the church’s doctrinal errors.
We can perceive others as angry when they are in pain, or as wonderful Christians while they are abusing God’s laws, perhaps even abusing their mates and children.
The point is that what we see or hear is not always factual or the complete picture. We should give others the benefit of the doubt more often and stop automatically repeating everything we hear because even the truth can become distorted in the retelling.
And we should ask God for the ability to perceive Spiritual truth. Without it, we truly are deceived.
© 2005 Janice Price