Perception is an interesting thing. Two people can look at the very same thing and see it in two very different ways. Sometimes witnesses to an accident or crime can give conflicting testimonies. Both can honestly be telling the truth as to what they think they saw, and yet one (or both) simply did not “see” correctly. Two siblings can describe an event in their childhood and it can sound like they grew up in two different homes. We see the world through various “lenses,” and it gets even more complicated – those “lenses” change as we experience various things in life. Even our view of ourselves is always subject to question – when I look in the mirror do I really see myself?
I thought of that today as I stood by my cousin’s casket. David had fought a long and hard battle with cancer before the Lord called him home to heaven. He and I are the same age (60) and he just looked too young to be gone. The strange thing is that I remember my father who died at 58, and while his life was cut off prematurely, he didn’t seem that young to me as I was 27. I’m two years older than dad was, but I don’t feel all that old (at least not most days!). “You are as old as you feel” is an expression that we have all heard. Our age is what it is, but our perception of that fact can be skewed.
That’s not the only self-perception that can be wrong. Some people who are very thin can perceive themselves as fat and starve themselves. Others can ignore their weight and feel that they are just fine when they are dangerously overweight. Some beautiful people can see themselves as ugly and spend a great deal of money and experience the pain of surgery to improve their appearance. There are those who perceive themselves to be wise and refuse to listen to advice given by others. Some people can think they are poor even when they have adequate funds and become hoarders. We obviously have trouble viewing ourselves objectively.
There is no area that is affected more by false perception than the state of our soul. Jeremiah tells us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 ESV)” We are often blind to our own sin – we know the theological truth that we are sinful, but we just don’t see ourselves that way. We think we are righteous, but are in reality far from it. We can be in great spiritual danger, but be totally unaware.
Fortunately there is a way we can know our spiritual condition. We can ask along with David “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! (Psalm 139:23 ESV).” The Lord will honor that prayer particularly as we read His word which functions as a mirror for our soul. When we read the Bible we gain a perspective that we would never have – we see ourselves as sinful, deserving of judgment. In James we are encouraged to not only gain that perspective, but then to act upon it. We can walk away from the mirror and go back to our false perception that we are OK, or we can do what the word says, and turn to the Lord. If we choose truth over perception we can find forgiveness, grace, cleansing and hope. If we choose to go with our self-perceived righteousness we face destruction. Let me encourage you to choose truth and life!