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Everything is not what it seems

June 9, 2012

I love that line.  I’ve used it in a sermon title, quoted it to countless people, and pondered it as I’ve faced bewildering circumstances.  I stole it from a little girl I met in a supermarket checkout line who was singing it, over and over and over, to the dismay of her mother who probably had been hearing it for several hours.  I later found out that it is a line from the theme song of a Disney TV series.

What the line most reminds me is that it is easy to jump to conclusions based on what we see as solid information and still have that conclusion be totally wrong.  We can also face circumstances where our conclusions are based far more on our own preconceived ideas than objective facts.  I thought of this line when I was reading a statistical study recently.

It seems that there is a direct and unvarying correlation between ice cream sales and the murder rate.  They rise and fall in harmony.  When ice cream sales go up, the murder rate goes up.  When the murder rate goes down, ice cream sales go down.  What conclusions can we draw from this?

One option is that eating ice cream causes some people to go out and kill.

Then again, it might be the other way around.  When someone gets murdered, we are more likely to eat ice cream in response.

Or everything is not what it seems.  There may be something else that impacts both.  One suggested possibility is the weather.  Heat and humidity have been shown to have negative impacts on our emotions.  They also tend to make us want to cool off with some ice cream.

We Christians are trained to see the world two-dimensionally.  There is the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Satan.  Good and evil.  Right and wrong.  The sheep and the goats.  Sound doctrine and heresy.  The couplets can go on and on.

We meet someone who responds to us in a way we don’t like and we take out our “A or B” mindset and place them in the “other” category.  We may tell them that wives should submit to their husbands and they get upset so they get put into the “feminist” pot.  But maybe they have been in, or are now in, an abusive relationship.

I knew someone once who was over 40, over weight and had high blood pressure when she and her husband had an unexpected pregnancy.  She had two doctors tell her that if she carried that baby to term she would likely die.  She needed my love, sympathy and support a lot more than she needed to be dropped into the “pro-choice” category.

It is amazing how often we can say something with good intentions and get over-the-top, unexpected emotional responses.  Rather than whip out our categories or our either/or boxes to explain this maybe we should echo the little girl and say everything is not what it seems and take the time to find out what is happening.

“There’s something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear.”

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