Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Things are not always what they appear!

Have you ever noticed that things are not always as they appear? I was so happy yesterday when I left work because the sun was shining. Even though the temperature hadn’t risen above zero all day, the presence of the sun made it appear warmer and was a promise of warmer days to come in a few months. Even the fact that it was actually still daylight when I was leaving the office was something to smile about. We are turning the corner and the days are getting longer.
I walked out to the car and even marveled that the pavement on the sidewalk was visible in spots; something I hadn’t seen in weeks.  I headed home, enjoying the sight of the snow glistening in the sunlight, when Bam…out of nowhere….the scene changed instantly. Suddenly, just about 3 miles into my journey, I found myself in the middle of a snow squaw that was literally like a blizzard. It was snowing and blowing so hard that I could hardly see the end of my hood. The road was snow covered with drifts a foot or more deep. I had to slow to a crawl, turn on my headlights, and inch my way along. It was almost unbelievable; like a scene out of a movie or something. After all, the sun was still shining in my rear-view mirror.
I focused all my attention to the road and worked my way home. After about 8 miles of these treacherous conditions, I was back in sunshine! So weird, but yet I’ve encountered the same type of thing in the spring and fall with fog or the blinding sun while traveling on due east-west roads. One minute the day was bright and happy and I could see for miles; the next I could see no way out of the situation; then again, all was well. 
Once out of danger, I began to ponder the experience and wondered what sort of lesson was waiting for me in that moment. God speaks to me in all sorts of ways and I’m a firm believer that we can learn something from just about everything that happens to us in the course of the day.  I began to reflect on the notion that “Things are not always how they appear.”
 Earlier in the day, I spoke with a student that had received a letter from the Financial Aid Office informing her that she was being given a “Warning semester” and that she was in danger of losing her financial aid eligibility. I deal with students like this on a daily basis. Some are placed on warning because they have dropped or failed too many classes. Others have very low grades and don’t meet the gpa standard required to remain eligible. Some have just taken too many credits without graduating. Often students on warning get these letters and immediately go into “panic mode.” This student was no different. She was concerned, upset, and confused, and immediately thought the worst.  While sorting out the situation with her, I discovered that “things are not what they appear” and that her situation was not because of poor performance, but simply because her Program of Study was incorrect in the college database system. A simple data change form took care of the problem and put her back in good standing with the Financial Aid department. It was not nearly as bad as it first appeared and her anxiety and distress was relieved.
How often do we do the same thing?  We get news from the doctor or a test comes back showing something unusual and we immediately jump to the wrong conclusion that we are dying.  We get called into the boss’s office and immediately assume we are in trouble or are losing our job. We have tense words with a friend or loved one and we immediately think the relationship is over.  SO many examples of this……… but in reality….THINGS ARE NOT ALWAYS WHAT THEY APPEAR!  One failed test or poor grade doesn’t mean we are stupid and are going to fail the class. One harsh word or argument doesn’t mean that reconciliation isn’t possible. One pound or two gained doesn’t mean we are out of control. One bad day….one bad performance…..one slip-up....one moment of weakness or temptation doesn’t mean that we are not going to be successful. Even more serious things like unemployment, grief, loss, depression, or illness doesn’t mean that we are doomed to a life of unhappiness forever.  It’s just a temporary period of darkness on our journey through life.  Things are not always as bad as they first appear. The sun will be shining again….just give it time.
On the other hand….Things that appear to be “too good to be true” likely are! Not many people get rich quick by buying lottery tickets. Advertisements that promote “get quick investments” often prey on vulnerable people and end up bankrupting them. I’ve yet to meet the “perfect man or woman.” Likewise, there is no quick fix for lasting weight loss.  There is no easy way to magically get thin, even though the media, TV infomercials, and magazines promise that their product will painlessly melt away fat. There is no magic pill. Even bariatric surgery requires serious lifestyle changes on the part of the patient.  Sure, some of these gimmicks might work in the beginning, and perhaps there are some people that have found success using them, but I don’t know any of them personally.  Do you?  Lasting weight loss requires hard work….and a commitment for life. Don’t fall for the notion that you just have to take this supplement, drink this shake, do this plan, or take this pill for a little while and then you will lose weight and can go back to eating normally. 
The lesson I learned from my blinding snowstorm drive is simple:  Things are not always as BAD as they first appear, nor are they always as GOOD as they appear.  Life is all about good and bad; light and darkness; trials and triumphs.  The thing that gives me hope and comfort is realizing that I didn’t travel that road home alone yesterday; I didn’t face that storm by myself; and I don’t travel this journey through life alone either.  It’s much easier face those temporary moments of darkness, temptation, or struggle, when I’m aware that God is with me…promising never to leave me….promising that better days are ahead.  When times get tough…..just slow down, breathe, get through it a mile or an hour at a time, and trust that soon enough, you’ll be back in the sunshine of life. Don’t give up on your journey just because you encountered rough roads for a time. Keep going...the sun is shining at the end!

Make it a good day today!