One of my favorite things to do as a faculty member is participate with students within the Discussion Forums. I particularly like this experience due to the fact that I spend a lot of time in front of the class explaining how the discussion is just that… a discussion and that there may not necessarily be a “right” or “wrong” answer to the posted question. It allows for many students to share multiple perspectives based on life experiences. I have also found that as a result of this honest communication, many heated discussions can take place. In the rare event that a student were to become offended by another’s comments, a peaceful resolve can occur by sharing with each party contextual clues that help each offended party interpret the text as the author originally intended. Hopefully the negative perception of the conversation or statement is shifted to a positive experience.
Chris Cunningham recently contributed to the Spiritual Life Blog with an article titled “Fathers of Dust” in which he delicately portrays the difference in perception based on life experience that people can have with a word such as “father.” Chris communicates the drastic contrast in definition that several individuals in his personal life associate with a single word. Either person in Chris’ entry could rightfully argue with any other, that his or her perception of “father” was correct, and back it up with very personal examples.
Tim Griffin’s most recent True North Devotional contains a very powerful message when it comes to perception of one’s life situation. Tim tells of God’s ability to give very unique responsibilities that allows Him to reveal Himself to the world. Our perception of life at work, school or home needs to be that of a steward. Our perspective or perception of God’s gifts in our lives plays a direct role in how God blesses others through us.
So who is right when it comes to determining perception?
There is a very popular philosophic analogy regarding perception of religion, which varies slightly in content depending on which Google search is selected; however, it goes something like this:
Four blind men encounter an elephant for the first time and begin to feel this massive creature. One man feels the trunk and determines that the creature must be a snake, yet another man grasps the leg and arrives at the conclusion that it must be a tree. The third man finds the tail and determines he is holding a rope, while the fourth man discovers the side of the elephant and is positive that he is grasping a wall.
While each man is feeling the same creature, four very different, and yet very real, creations are being perceived. In reality, the four blind men were all wrong…there was no snake, tree, rope or wall. In many ways I am just like any of the blind men. I often feel around in life and falsely label situations based on my current position, experiences or misperception of reality. I get too fixed on the immediate situation in front of me and fail or refuse to acknowledge the much bigger plan, and as a result…I completely miss God.
Again, who is right when it comes to perception? Is there such thing as absolute truth?
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
The same God who created the universe had this very moment in mind before the world was even created. I marvel at the fact that I can never surprise God. He knows every move, thought and sin that I will ever commit. In spite of it all, He has a very specific plan for my life. While I may be stuck focusing on what is blindly in my hands, God has the continuum of all time worked out in His perfection. The absolute truth remains in God. He is not only love, but is consistent and knows the exact role each of us is going to fulfill in this life.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” (Romans 15:13)