A couple of years ago, I had a somewhat bizarre experience. In retrospect, it made sense—but in the moment, it was just plain weird!
We have an apple orchard about 15 miles from where I live where you can not only pick fresh apples, but the orchard has a restaurant and gift shop as well. On my way home from work one day, I decided to stop and buy a jar of their locally produced honey from the gift shop.
I drove up to the main building in front, and as I parked I saw a middle-aged couple standing near the front door, arms linked, looking toward me with a huge welcoming smile on their faces. The orchard sits alone on the highway, and there were no other people getting out of cars besides me, so I supposed they were looking at me. I know, I know—you’re thinking “Judy thinks it’s all about HER!” But the look on their faces was clearly one of recognition, so I began to think who they might be and how they knew me as I got out of the car.
At that point, they began moving toward me, clearly making eye contact and smiling as if I were the very person they had been waiting for. I smiled and nodded, not sure what to do. As I approached them, I joked, “So are you guys the welcoming committee?”
“Yes, we are!” they chirped. “We are directing people to go in the main door rather than around back,” they said, motioning toward the door I always go through anyway. “We are Pam and Mike (not their real names); who are you?” they asked.
Now, if you lived in someplace like Massachusetts, that might seem like a totally inappropriate question, and you might slowly back away like you had been greeted by the Boston Strangler—then run for your life. But here in friendly West Texas, this question made perfect sense, and I readily volunteered my name. “Great!” they exuded. “Just go on in.” At this point, even though I was playing along, it did feel a bit like a Twilight Zone experience.
Then suddenly things took a different tone as Pam asked, “So are you related to the bride or groom?”
Ah. It all became clear as I explained that I not only did NOT know the bride and groom, but didn’t even know there was a wedding about to happen; I was just there to buy some honey! Then we all laughed at the misunderstanding.
As I drove home, the honey sitting on the seat beside me, I reflected how the misunderstanding mirrors everyday life. Like the rear view mirrors on our cars warn, sometimes things are just not what they appear to be. We may be charging ahead with confidence, believing we know where we are going, we understand who is involved, and our purpose is clear. We often have little thought that our plans might get diverted, or that what looks like a smooth path may indeed turn out to be a rocky road.
Like the couple at the apple orchard, I often surge ahead with confidence, believing I know the right thing to do or that I understand how to handle the situation at hand. Everything fits into my reality, and I don’t even have a clue that I might be wandering into a Twilight Zone experience.
I believe God wants us to stay open to change, in the event that things are really not what they seem. We have to learn to listen to His Spirit and become discerning people, knowing that some of the things about which we are most certain will occasionally get skewed in our minds. Computer jargon describes a WYSIWYG environment—WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET. But in real life, there is no such environment. What you see is usually not totally the way it is.
We generally view life experiences through the lens of our own family history, our past experiences, what things have influenced our thinking, and a host of other factors. The narrative I described above illustrates how differently I viewed the scenario from the couple who had been assigned to “meet and greet.” We each interpreted the meeting based on our expectations of what we thought should be happening, not necessarily what the facts were.
My prayer over the past couple of years has been that I would see truth in my daily life. That sounds like a vague, general approach, but I think it’s important because any of us can get easily diverted from what is true, and get caught up in what sounds good, and what appears to be a certain way. A spokesperson, if they are articulate and sound authoritative, can be very convincing of any point of view regardless of what is actually true. Walk into any showroom and speak with a salesman and you can prove this to be true.
In an age where communication comes at us from so many different directions and often seems to have a ring of truth, let us become people of discernment, whether it’s about religion, politics, social customs, or a wedding at an orchard!