Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
The poet Thomas Hardy once wrote some interesting words: “There is a condition worse than blindness. And that is seeing something that isn’t there”.
You have to stop for a moment to think about it—seeing something that’s not there. How often do we misunderstand what our friend says, because our mind is on something else? Or we think we’ve heard what our partner says, only to miss the point totally?
In life, generally, it’s easy to miss the point.
What a Bag of Cookies Can Teach Us
I love the simple story of Marie, a business woman from Minneapolis in the US. She’d been away from her family on a two-week business trip to Denver and was at last on her way home. It had been a long two weeks, and she was eager to get home. She’d missed the kids. She had to change planes at O’Hare Airport in Chicago. It’s the fourth busiest airport in the world, and many passengers are stressed and angry at delays.
Marie had 45 minutes to make her connecting flight and raced from one terminal to the other. At the counter she was told her flight was indefinitely delayed. She was furious, and in no mood for small talk. She looks up and sees Mrs Field cookies shop. So she buys a bag of cookies but can’t find a seat.
You can imagine how she was feeling. Finally, she finds a table with a mother and two children. Marie takes out a book to read, and puts her hand in the bag for a nice biscuit. The woman reaches out and puts her hand in and pulls out three biscuits—one for herself and one each for her children. Marie is incensed. What’s going on here?, she fumes to herself. She is in no mood for this nonsense. The other woman takes three more. The plane is ready for passengers, so Marie takes the bag, crumples it up, gives the mother a long stare.
As she walks away she mumbles, Here I am in this God-forsaken airport and this crazy woman eating my cookies. She finally gets on the plane, looks into her carry on bag, and to her surprise sees her bag of Mrs Fields cookies. At that table the whole time she had been eating the other woman’s cookies. A simple story, but one that is rich in meaning. She had been so stressed at the airport she wasn’t seeing reality. She mistook the bag of cookies as her own.
We See Things as We Are
Here’s the punchline: we don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are. Each person who sees a thing will see it filtered through their own perceptions. So, none of us really see it objectively. Each person sees it with their own beliefs, preconceptions, interpretation, and attitude. Or another way of describing it comes from Stephen Covey’s version, from his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:
Each of us tends to think we see things as they are, that we are objective. But this is not the case. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are—or, as we are conditioned to see it. When we open our mouths to describe what we see, we in effect describe ourselves, our perceptions, our paradigms.
Life: dreadful or great? It depends on your perceptions.
I’m sure that is correct. Think about it. At any given moment, life can be dreadful or life can be great. It all comes down to the perception we choose. It’s not so much our circumstances that matter but what we make of them:
- Why do we miss the obvious?
- Why do so many marriages break up?
Husband and wife don’t hear what is being said—they only think they heard.
Not Seeing a Miracle We Walk Past
In the New Testament is a strange story of a man born blind in John chapter 9. He spent his life as a beggar. Life was difficult for him. One Sabbath day, Jesus spits on the ground, makes a piece of clay, and smears it into the man’s eyes. He can see—his blindness is cured. But what a stir is caused amongst the religious establishment. The disciples think he was blind because of some sin he committed.
Neighbours thought it was a trick, and that he had never been blind in the first place. The Pharisees refused to believe in the miracle. The man’s parents are afraid and come close to disowning their son. Jesus had healed the man, but so many refused to accept what happened. They were looking at the event through their own bias and misconceptions. Sometimes it’s easier to close our eyes and not face the truth.
How often have you walked past a miracle and not seen it? Ask God today to open your eyes and see what is going on around you. He wants to show you the potential and possibilities that today has for you. Don’t see things as you are—see them as they really are.