Thursday, May 1, 2008

Not What They Appear -- Hope Chronicles 38

Several years ago I lived in Bloomington, Indiana. I was on staff with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and struggling a bit to make ends meet on my own. A family offered to have me live in their basement. I paid some rent and supplemented this with helping with the kids. We opted to try it for six months but it worked so well that it lasted three years!

When I first moved in, they were in the process of putting in a bathroom in the basement. Until it was done, I used the guest bathroom upstairs. One night I got up to use the bathroom. Not wanting to wake anyone, I walked in the dark and didn't flip the light on until I reached my destination. "Silly, cat!" I whispered and then -- in terror -- I slammed the door! It had clicked in my sleepy mind that the tail I saw protruding from behind the toilet was ringed rather than pure grey.

I knocked on Jerry and Dana's door and announced that there was a raccoon in the bathroom. Neither believed me and told me that it was the cat. I insisted that Jerry check. Sure enough, there was a raccoon now caught in the bathroom!

The shape was right from behind. The coloring was right. It just took me a moment to notice that the tail was a bit off and things were not what they appeared.

After reading some antics that happened at Amy's "In My Life" site involving reptiles in the toilet, it got me thinking about that night. As I've thought about it, I've pondered how often things are not as they appear: physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.


We all know there is no such thing as magic and that magicians use slight of hand to make us think we're seeing something we're not. (But it is still amazing and I so wish I could learn the quarter out of the ear trick.) Just like magicians, we make things in our lives look differently than they are:

  • Hiding things in the closet when company comes
  • Plucking the offending gray hair
  • Putting on our faces
  • Acting as though things are one way when they aren't

In the animal kingdom, I can think of two things start out very differently than what they will become: the fuzzy caterpillar and the ugly duckling. Maybe I should make that three because scripture teaches that even we aren't what we will one day be. No, I don't mean the aging process we fight so hard.


I think most of us put on fronts. We pretend we are doing better than we actually are. We smile when we feel like crying. If someone asks how we are it is a "Great!" or "Fine!" We tell ourselves and others that this or that hurt, slight, or disappointment, doesn't matter anyway.


Even here we can pretend that things are different than they actually are. We pretend we aren't angry or hurt when we are. We pretend we are the best daughter or friend or wife or mother or church member . . . there ever was. We find our importance in relation to those around us rather than in relation to our heavenly Father.


Yes, we can pretend that we are doing better in this area than we actually are. We can quote scripture and teach Sunday school. We can make a meal for someone who is ill or just not let anyone see how closely the pastor's lesson struck home with us.

In lots of ways, we have the right shape, the right color, but deep down we know that something is off. There are rings on that tail that should be solid!

I'm rereading and thinking, "That doesn't sound very hopeful!" But there is hope in the fact that things are not what they appear. Not that we should all go pretending -- not that. Rather there is hope in knowing the end of the story even if we don't know the twists and turns that it will take to get there.

Physically, emotionally, relationally, the world seems to be in a piteous state: global warming, war, disease, school shootings, drugs, . . . . But the hope is in that it will all one day be renewed. As scripture says, even creation waits in eager expectation (Romans 8:19-21 (NIV)):

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

All the pretense and pretending will one day fade away. It will become clear that things are not what they appear when the glory of God shines all around. It's hidden now, but one day it won't be so. There is hope in knowing that I am not yet what I will be but I am becoming. There is hope in knowing the one who is changing me and all His creation.

While there is hope in that, the challenge of all this is letting ourselves be real with one another while we wait. In doing so, I think we might find hope in God's community. So the next time you are tempted to say "Great!" (of course unless you really are), think about if the tail is solid or has rings!

1 comment:

Heather@Mommymonk said...

John Eldredge talks about how things are not what they seem. Like Alice in Wonderland or Neo in the matrix. We discover that what we see on the surface isn't anywhere near the truth.

Thank goodness that we have the hope of eternity!