Thy word is a lamp unto my feet. – Psalm 119:105
Perception: Perception is the key. What may or may not be really doesn’t matter. It’s how we perceive it that counts, because that’s what we react to, that is what sets out understanding. Our perception, right or wrong, is our life guide.
I used to think my perceptions were pretty accurate. I could easily tell what behavior was fitting, when response was called for and which reaction was appropriate. I had the gift of an innate ability to read people and situations, plus sense of timing and wisdom to know when to respond, and how, mostly.
Of course I have made a few mistakes, had a few misapprehensions along the way. One occurred while I was in the Marine Corps in California in the late 60’s. After numerous weekends of being “confined to post,” my Telephone Communications class was finally given a weekend pass. I immediately hopped into faded blue jean civvies, cranked up the old Corvair, grabbed another white-side-walled jarhead, and set out to La Jolla for a weekend with real people. We were cruising the streets, feeling the freedom and soaking in the tunes from my eight-track tape deck as it blasted out “Louie, Louie.” We were psyched.
Then we spied a little red VW with two young ladies with long straight hair two blocks up the road. I downshifted and rushed ahead to catch up to the longhaired lovelies; not an easy task with traffic, stop lights and their speed, but we were determined and gaining fast. I remember well turning up the tunes and laying on the horn. My comrade in the Corps was leaning half way out the window yelling, “Baby, Baby, Baby!” When we pulled up beside them, not only was I surprised when the driver with beautiful long blond flowing hair turned to reveal an equally beautiful, long blond flowing beard, but I was extremely embarrassed. They were both guys and we were both fools; there was no denying it.
Undoubtedly all of us know of similar moments. Like when you yell at a friend across a crowded room only to have them turn to reveal the face of no one you’ve ever seen before. “Oops.” Or when you try to convince someone you haven’t seen in a long time that you have already met his accompanying wife, only to find out you had met his previous wife. “Sorry.”
Naturally I’ve learned from my mistakes. I no longer notice toupees, newly capped teeth or minor physical “touch-up” repairs. I don’t even tell good friends with new hairstyles, “I liked it better before.” I’m less honest now, more politically polite. Today I would say, “I’m sure I’ll really like it when I get used to the change.”
Perception: Perception is the key. I’m beginning to worry about mine. My ability to perceive is shifting with time. It’s fading, becoming less accurate, less precise. My choice of clothes is now called “classic” and my music is considered “golden oldies.” Plus recently I have begun to sense my comments being received less as witty and clever and more as tacky.
Surely these are minor infractions, but they do lead me to wonder. I’m not so worried about beginning to feel comfortable wearing plaid knit slacks, Bermuda shorts, or wide ties. But I do worry; what if I begin to feel comfortable thinking of my value system as the only moral one, my life style as the only acceptable one, my people as the only righteous ones? It is all frighteningly possible when perceptions fade.
Prayer: We turn to you, Lord, as the giver and guide to life. Guide our path. Amen.