This is my pastor’s letter this month in our newsletter: The Sound of the Trumpet
En route to California in January 2002, while on vacation, I found myself caught short several times but what I saw. We saw museums and memorials, and we all learned a lot by what we experienced. But as we traveled through the states of New Mexico and Arizona I also heard God speaking to me in what I DID NOT see… and that startled me.
You’ve got to understand that I, like millions of others, grew up with images of the American Southwest gleaned not from National Geographic, but rather from cartoons like the Road Runner and the episode of the Brady Bunch where the clan toured the Grand Canyon. I went into this trip knowing that we would have to pass through the desert, and I expected hot sun, scorching heat, and miles and miles of sand, rocks, canyons, and cactus trees like I saw Wile E Coyote hide behind in those childhood cartoons.
What I found in most places along I-40 where we traveled was dry earth, but little sand; Joshua trees, but never once did I see what I thought could be called a cactus (like Wile’s); and cold days and colder nights… especially at the Grand Canyon where we almost had to turn around because of a sudden icy burst of sleet and snow as we headed towards the canyon. In fact, once we got to the Grand Canyon, we almost froze because of the arctic-like chill and howling winds. My expectations were NOT met. I had a faulty picture of what to expect. My perception was wrong.
On the other hand, when we stopped at the Painted Desert, which we had not planned on doing and I had never heard of before (and of which I had no real expectations), I was overwhelmed by the beauty and variety of colors and hues at every turn. When we saw the sign to turn off the interstate, I figured I would see four or five shades of gray and brown. Instead, I saw multitudes of vibrant colors showing off God’s creativity. Once again, my expectations were not met, but in such a positive way this time.
Later on, when I was praying, the Lord reminded me that I have often had to face the reality of unmet expectations in the same way. I head into situations with my expectation of what will (or should) happen and am disappointed when things don’t line up the way I envisioned them. I have a particular perception of someone else and, regardless of what they do, I’m likely to see in them exactly what I had expected to see based on my own pre-conceived ideas and perceptions.
I suspect that I’m not alone in this. We all have those kinds of moments, those kinds of expectations, those kinds of perceptions… sometimes even unconscious perceptions. And the Lord reminded me that day as we drove on that I can miss the beauty and wonder and joy of an experience if I go into it with a wrong perception.
Likewise, I can miss the beauty and wonder and joy of a relationship if I go into it with a wrong perception of the person. But how do we get the right perspective? How can we fix our perceptions? I was reminded that day of two answers Paul gives to that dilemma.
The first, found in Romans 12:1-2, is that we need to let God wash our minds and renew them of erroneous thinking. Let’s seek His perspective and see how He looks at things, at situations, and especially people.
Second, in Philippians 4:8, Paul reminds us to look for the good, the lovely, the honest, the pure. We are to head into situations, events, experiences, and relationships by looking for the positives… never the negatives.
How about it? Are you facing unmet expectations about a situation or event that didn’t go the way you thought it ought to? How about this one… Are you having troubles with someone… a neighbor, a friend, an elderly acquaintance, a co-worker, or even someone in the church? Could it be a case of mistaken perceptions?
If so, let’s fess up to the Lord, and allow Him to renew our minds, our expectations, and perceptions of the people, situations, and events He puts into our lives. Then, and only then, can we expect to truly enjoy the events, experiences and people in our lives.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” —Romans 12:2a (NIV)
Think On These Things…
“Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” —Philippians 4:8 (The Message)