We had a neighbor.
Let's call her Sue.
Sue was friendly. She came and borrowed butter one night because she and her adult daughter wanted to make cookies. Then, she came back over and brought us some of those cookies. It was December, they had just moved in.
We formed a friendly neighbor bond. Saying hello and this and that. It was nice to have a nice neighbor. We live in a duplex--so, it was really nice to trust the person living so close.
She ran a thrift store in town. She'd spontaneously come over and give my kids things like flip flops or cool trinkets. If she saw a coat, or something my boys could use, she'd set it aside for us.
Now, I knew she had a past. I knew she was a recovering addict. Alcohol I assumed. Her store was a non profit to help send others struggling with addiction to rehab and support them in their recovery.
Well, one day I was talking to Sue in her driveway and a policeman pulled up and walked over. "You are under arrest."
I'm sure she was mortified.
I didn't ask questions. I told her to tell her her kids they could contact me if they needed anything.
I also said I'd pray for her.
Even then, I didn't judge. It didn't change my perception of her. She was a good neighbor to me--regardless of what she'd done.
After she got out of jail, Sue decided to go back to rehab. She moved out.
A month or so passed.
There was a knock on the door. She said hello. Hugged me. She looked great. Really great. Said she was moving away. Wanted to say goodbye and thank you for all the prayers.
Then, like three days later on my Facebook feed one day, there it was: WANTED. By the police department. Sue's picture. This list of offenses was long. Car theft, fraud, evading arrest, etc.
I had no idea.
I never saw anything but the good.
I'm sure there were lots of people in Sue's life: family, friends and acquaintances that saw only the "bad" side of her. People she'd betrayed, lied to, stolen from. I'm sure there were a lot of people that hated Sue.
Yet, for some reason, I was only shown the good.
I believe God ALLOWED me to see the good in her.
Now, why would he do that?
Perception is a tricky beast.
It can be so subjective, skewed, and short-sided, but yet, so open, multifaceted and objective.
We have to consider our perception. What shapes it.
What am I seeing? Is it the whole picture? What's going on with this person? What's going on inside me?
We are all like Sue. We show people different sides of ourselves depending on where you fall in the friend chain. Am I right?
Depending on our insecurities or fears or circumstances--we show people different versions of ourselves. Work self vs. Home self. Acquaintance self vs. Best friend self. Basically we all lead double lives in a sense. . .
So, in respect to perception--we have to we evaluate what we see.
Why? When? How? Where? What?
There is an epic battle waging an on going war in our hearts and minds: The Good vs. The Bad. What we show others and how we receive others. It all depends on our perception of ourselves and the perceptions we have of others.
OK. Follow me, unleash your inner geek and let's examine Star Wars:
The Force. It's strong.
But, so is the Darkside. It's pretty strong too.
Let me preface this by saying we love Star Wars in our house. We introduced our kids to the old school Star Wars (Episodes 4, 5, & 6) and immediately our three boys took to it. Our third child lives and breathes Star Wars. In fact, he won't wear anything that doesn't have Darth Vader on it.
We've been revisiting (also known as "geeking out"on) Episodes 1, 2, and 3 in our house to catch up on the back story of Anakin Skywalker, so we are prepared for The Force Awakens which opens in December.
In The Phantom Menance (Episode 1,) Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi meet a nine-year-old slave boy named Anakin Skywalker. Qui-Gon Jinn senses a strong presence of the Force within Anakin and is convinced that he is the "chosen one" of Jedi prophecy who will bring balance to the Force.
Qui-Gon asks the Jedi Council to train Anakin as a Jedi, but the Council are concerned that Anakin is vulnerable to the dark side of the Force and decline. Undaunted, Qui-Gon vows to train Anakin himself.
Anakin starts out good. But, like all of us--growing up is hard. It changes us. We see Anakin's heart begin to harden after his mother's death.
We all know what eventually happened to Anakin: he was seduced by the Darkside and became Darth Vader.
When we were introduced to Star Wars back in 1977, Darth Vader was bad to the bone. Everyone in the Galaxy knew it. I'm sure we wondered how Luke in Return of the Jedi could be so sure there was still good in his father, and ultimately try to save him.
In 1999 our whole perception of Darth was blown wide open when the back story of Anakin was laid out for us again in the theater.
So, where am I going with this?
We cannot always trust our perception. Well, why not?
Because it may be skewed. Chances are it definitely is.
Check your perception.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)
Let us lay our perceptions: about people, our circumstances, our past, the present and our future before God and ask Him to filter them. Use the Force. Ask for open hearts and minds. Seek to understand. God will grant us the truth. Luke did. And despite everything--Luke never stopped believing there was good in his dad.
Everyone--and I mean everyone--deserves the benefit of our doubt.
From the trailer of The Force Awakens:
"The Force. It's calling to you. Just let it in."
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9)
Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)