“You should move over in the left lane,” I said, “There is a car off on the right.”
He complied, and moved the car into the left lane. I continued reading my book.
Not long after, he asked, “Where was the car you saw on the side of the road?”
“It was back there. You didn’t see it?”
“What do you mean, ‘No’? It was just up the road from when I told you.”
“There was never a car.”
Silence overtook me; confusion followed. It didn’t seem possible for the car to have pulled back onto the road given the traffic and timing.
“Hmmm…well, that is interesting. I was certain I saw a car.”
“Well, apparently, you saw something that wasn’t there,” he said through his laughter.
He was right. Clearly, I had seen something that wasn’t there. My imagination has equipped me well to see things that might not be there.
For instance, I’ve seen Pat and I embroiled in a fight he was unaware we were in. My perception of his attitude conveyed a message towards me that he was upset with me. Can you relate? Have you ever developed an attitude towards someone based upon your perception of their attitude? I can be pretty quick to see an attitude that might not necessarily be there. Then I allow observation—rather than confirmation—lead me down the road of irritation. I can talk myself into a great mad if I am not careful.
I’ve worked myself into a health crisis thanks to a search of symptoms on WebMD. I have always been a worse-case-scenario-patient rather than a best-case one. When this happens, and I see something that isn’t there, the Lord will use His Word—and accountability—to ease my anxiety from self-diagnosis. Once, I gave Pat a rundown of my funeral instructions – just so he would be prepared. Every symptom has the potential to raise a red-flag-anxiety attack if I am not careful.
I’ve seen myself as a victim when I’ve pursued the approval of people rather than the approval of God alone. It’s easy to feel crushed and defeated when the opinion of others becomes the idol of my worship. Whether real, or imagined, an unkind comment, thoughtless act, or seeming disregard, are just a few of the tools the enemy uses to inflict wounds to my heart. If I am not protective of my thoughts, I can quickly latch on to the negative voice that drags me to a place of self-pity. When this happens and I feast on the negatives of what might have been meant by the comment, look, or action, I quickly accept the role of a victim.
I don’t want to be anyone’s victim. I don’t need to be a victim. Through Christ, I am victorious regardless of what has been done to me—real or imagined. God is always ready to show me where I have misunderstood, and He is always ready to help me heal when the message was loud and clear. We can thank God for the victory to overcome (1 Corinthians 5:57).
I can easily construct conclusions when I jump into situations without any information of facts. What my eyes see, and the truth behind what they saw have the potential to be extremely different. When I understand the whole story I am spared from the humiliation of jumping to wrong conclusions. I may assume I understand the motives of others, which might trigger suspicion, and then discover my assumptions were wrong all along.
Isn’t that what happened with Joseph when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him? He rejected her advances and fled her room; however, his cloak remained in her hand. Though he was innocent, when the staff saw the cloak, and heard her tale, he was sent him to prison for years (Genesis 39). When we allow our eyes to communicate truth we run the risk of imposing a guilty verdict without a fair trial. How many people have you sent to prison over a wound that was perceived rather than factual? Goodness. I’ve sent a few; I’ve locked them up with a grudge and believed their intention was to hurt me rather than allowing them to explain.
So what do I do when my eyes tell me a story? I run fast to God for clarification.
- Have I misunderstood? Seek to understand the truth.
- Is fear driving my perception?
- Am I being overly sensitive? (This is a great possibility with me).
- Am I allowing my imagination to rule over my thoughts?
- Am I jumping to unnecessary conclusions?
My belief will determine my behavior. When I choose to believe something that wasn’t there it will have an effect on me, and the way I behave towards others. How many relationships have been broken because one person saw something that wasn’t intended and became offended?
Wise Solomon reminds us, “ A wise person demonstrates patience, for mercy means holding your tongue. When you are insulted, be quick to forgive and forget it, for you are virtuous when you overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11, TPT). Who knows? You might be overlooking an offense you saw but no one else did.
As Pat’s co-pilot, I will continue to help him see what might be easy for him to miss; however, I will also remain aware that what I spy with my little eye might not actually be there.