What You See is Not Always What You Get
My Dad told me a story over 20 years ago, but it still makes me laugh today. I’ll tell you the moral of the story right up front. Get all the facts. Do not form opinions or make assumptions based solely on what you hear or see.
Here is the story. My parents drove their cars to the gas station together and my dad proceeded to pump gas into both cars. This was before the pay at the pump days, so Dad went inside the station to pay for the gas while Mom drove away. As he walked in, the cashier was flying off the handle about Miss Priss driving off without paying for her gas. When the cashier calmed down, she looked at my dad and said, “Sorry sir, can I help you?” His response was, “Yes, I’m here to pay for Miss Priss’ gas.”
What you see is not always what you get!
There is wisdom to be gleaned from this story. Get the facts. Ask questions. Pay attention. If that cashier had looked out the window, she would have seen my parents drive up together, or seen my dad pumping gas for both vehicles. For all the city dwellers, that might seem a bit much to expect, but I’m from Smalltown, USA. Everybody noticed everything twenty years ago, and even somewhat today. Opinions are formed too easily, with or without facts, in this media driven world we live in. We may read one story on social media and decide to like or dislike a stranger, as if we have all the facts. We may read a story about an issue and believe it to be true. If we follow news outlets on both sides of the spectrum, it is often hard to imagine that they could be reporting on the same person or situation.
Life in the church world is similar. I wish we were much better than the world in this respect. We hear an account of another follower of Christ and take it at face value. We may not even say what we are thinking aloud, but our opinion has been formed. Our hearts get involved in situations in which we are neither a part of the problem nor the solution. We waste precious energy meditating on who is right and who is wrong, instead of meditating on what the Lord has to say about the situation. Maybe He wants you to pray, or maybe to mind your own business. If it is a societal issue, maybe the Lord will lead you to do more than think or talk about it. Perhaps with the right heart, He will show you how to be a part of the solution.
One thing that has helped me along the way is to remove personal offense before embracing an opinion. Psalm 119:165 has truly been a life verse for me. I like this verse in the King James Version because it helps me confront offenses. “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” This is an Old Testament scripture which references the Old Testament laws, but I lean into the “… the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus [which] has made me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:2 NKJV) When I struggle with taking on offense, I speak it to myself this way, “Great peace have they who love Your Word, and nothing will offend them.” There are times that I must speak this to myself repeatedly until my heart lines up with the Word, but eventually I can move on from offense to peace and hearing the Lord’s heart in a matter. It is a process to peace, but well worth the effort. Like the story above, in the situations and conflicts that show up in my world, things are not always as they appear. In interpersonal relationships, heart motives and intentions are not always what you think they are. What you see is not always what you get.