It All Hinges On One’s Perception

I already mentioned in one of my blogs that last week was a very different week for me. It seems as though every year as we approach the "Holiday Season" people become more reflective and as a result, I spend a lot of time either dealing with people in crisis or talking with people who are doing some soul searching, or those simply needed a word of advice. Well, that time of year is already in full swing, and last week I accomplished not one thing that I intended to accomplish as time would not permit. I'm not complaining, it's just the way it is. At any rate, yesterday I had a really funny encounter with someone that gave me the thought for today's blog. 

It so happens that I had an appointment to meet someone to talk at Innkeeper's Coffee yesterday, but they did not show up. I went ahead and ordered some spaghetti and a pot of tea and used the time to do some work on next week's sermon. There were a couple of young men from the college sitting near me and I could not help but notice that they kept turning to look at me, and I could overhear them at times. I heard one of them say, "I'm not going to ask him,  you ask him!"  A minute or so later, I looked over at them and I said, "It's ok, is there something you wanted to ask?" They both looked like deer caught in the headlights of a car with this look of "Oh my god!" on their faces. I again told them it was ok, and one of them asked, "are you that preacher that was in the paper a few weeks ago?"  I told them that I was, thinking that was it, until one of them asked, "Dude, what was up last week? You were here all day man!" I had to laugh. The other guy said, "We've been trying to figure out what you were doing and we have a list of ideas."  Now I'm thinking, these guys are just needing something to do if they have spent the time discussing a guy that they don't know, trying to figure out who he is and what he is doing.  I asked them how they knew I'd been there all day, unless they'd been there all day. They looked at each other and cracked up, and one said, "I never thought of that!" They then began to explain how that one of them had been there earlier in the day and had seen me, and that the two of them had come in together at lunch time to study and the one had commented to the other that I had been there earlier, but that I had been with someone else. They said that what really caught their attention was that they saw one woman leave and that I started to leave, but came back in and just a few minutes later, another woman came in and sat with me. They said that they had gone to class and came back afterward and that they saw me, still there, talking with yet another person... and that again, they saw me just before they left with still another person. 

Now here is where this story takes on life.
They had begun discussing what I might be doing, sitting there talking to so many people, and they decided to come up with a list. I wish I had thought to get a copy of the list, because they had almost an entire notebook size piece of paper filled with ideas of who I was and what I was doing.  One of the funniest ones that I recall was that they had decided that I was an undercover cop, and that I was talking to snitches. They had also come up with the idea that I might be someone who was moving a business to town and I was interviewing prospective employees. One suggested that I was hiding out from my wife.  One that I really thought was funny, as to how far they would have to had to have thought this over was that they thought I might be a movie scout, looking for local people to act in a movie.  One of them told me that they had actually asked another customer if they knew who I was, and they told him that they thought I was a pastor and that they were pretty sure they'd seen me in the newspaper, but that they were not sure. They had dismissed that notion, thinking that I did not look like a preacher.  (I have always wondered, just what does a preacher look like?)

After these two shared some of their ideas, one said, "I just did not want to believe you were a preacher. That just did not make sense."  I asked him why that did not make sense, and he said, "Why would all of these people want to talk with you?" He went on to say that he just could not figure out why anyone one would spend 2 hours talking with a preacher." I asked him if what it felt like to be talking to me right then, and he said, "I guess you're ok" and again they laughed.  We talked for a few more minutes and then I finished my lunch and left.  But I've been thinking about that conversation ever since. I started thinking about how perspective slants our thinking, understanding and world view.

Honestly, I had wondered what others must have thought when I spent more than 6 hours in Innkeepers. I kept waiting for Mike or Johan to come tell me that they were going to charge me rent for office space. In one respect, I was angry that my entire day was spent in Innkeepers.  On the other hand, I felt very good that I had been able to help some people, and had some really good conversation with others. So, I knew the day was not wasted, yet I was frustrated that my plans for the day had flown out the window as my phone had kept ringing... people asking if I could talk.  My own perception teetered from moment to moment from successful day to wasted day.  To these young men... there are several things I observe. Number one, they have a warped view of who and what a preacher is, and it has caused them to steer clear of anyone in the ministry. The other, is that they failed to see that for almost a week, their focus in life had been on "who was the mystery man?" and they did not see how that they let something like this consume their time and energy.  Kind of reminds me on how often people are so consumed with their own judgment of others that they fail to see their own faults, don't you think?
Since that conversation yesterday, my mind keeps wandering back and wondering how many other people may have observed my "day at Innkeeper's" and formed their own opinions.  I don't know, but I'd venture to guess that someone most likely observed and formed the opinion that I was a lazy preacher, wasting time doing nothing. Maybe someone else saw me talking with one of the women and came to the conclusion that there was an affair going on. (Come on, you know how people think.)  

My point is, that different people will always come up with differing conclusions and opinions, based on their perception and their own thinking.  There is a lot to think about in that thought. How many times in life are we absolutely certain about something that we have seen or heard, and we pass judgment based on that perception... and chances are, we are far from the truth, and often times, the truth is staring us in the face, and we refuse to accept it, because "it does not fit" our thinking or understanding... just as these young men were told that I was a pastor... but they did not want to accept that idea.
How many times has our perception caused us to form an opinion, or make a judgment, that is just false?  
Just thinking out loud here.