Deception of Perception

In the early years of my adult life, I worked for a petroleum and chemical transport company on the Gulf Coast. My duties entailed loading and unloading ships, barges, trucks, and rail cars with products that were stored on site.Loading rail cars was the job I least enjoyed because it required climbing ladders positioned up the sides of the cars several times in order to connect or disconnect hoses and check pressures and levels. If you look at a ladder on a standard liquid transport rail car, it is curved just like the tank itself. To perform the job, you actually have to climb a semicircle shape up the side which is much more difficult than climbing straight up.

One night, while working the evening shift, I had several rail cars to manage. I took the task in stride and began hustling up and down the sides of the cars. Some of the chemicals we handled were extremely toxic, so to some degree, I was cautious about getting doused with them. However, that night, I received an injury of the most unexpected sort. At one point, after sealing the lid on a car, I proceeded down the ladder. Though wearing the mandatory safety glasses, I felt a speck of something in my eye. After dismounting the ladder, I carefully rolled my sleeve back to its underside to wipe the debris from my eye. Unfortunately, it felt much worse, like there was something lodged in it.

The short of this story is that I ended up in the emergency room having a tiny piece of metal extracted from my eye. After literally scratching the surface of my eye to remove the fragment (and it took several attempts because it was rather deep), my injured eye was bandaged and I was released. I did not know how irresponsible this was until I walked out. I was alone and realized I would have to drive home in the dark.

While walking to my car, I noticed everything seemed a little ‘different’. I discounted the change in my vision to having had my eye held open for so long. However, when I reached for the car door, I kept having to reach, and reach, and reach, to the point I had to step a little closer to actually grasp the handle.

It was about 2:00 am when I pulled onto the street to go home with hardly anyone else on the road. This was fortunate because I was struggling with my ability to gauge distances. As I approached the first traffic light, it was red, so I slowed to a stop. However, I was several yards from the light so I inched forward, looking ever so intently, trying to estimate how far I actually was from where I needed to be.

The problem was obvious. When you are accustomed to having the use of both eyes and suddenly lose sight in or obstruct one of them, your depth perception is radically changed. This is the ability to judge distances from where you are. The simplest of tasks, such as stepping off a curb, can be treacherous even though you have done so a thousand times before. When we suffer with this situation the difficulty does not rest with the landscape around us; rather, the problem is with us and our perception of how things appear. The distance between one point and another does not change. What changes is our view of it.

In like manner, our perception of what we hear largely depends on how open or obstructed our minds are. Many times words are spoken and hearers walk away with exactly the opposite of what the speaker said. Preachers understand this phenomenon intimately. Yet, just as distances do not actually change when our eyes are hindered, the truth of words spoken does not alter either. It is only within the mind of the hearer where perception clouds the truth.

When we are not completely open to the truth of God, our perception distorts reality. Mankind has suffered with this through the ages. In Acts 28:22ff, the apostle Paul confronted the Jews with this very issue by quoting what was spoken by the Holy Spirit through the prophet Isaiah – “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; For the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I should heal them.”

May we become a people of open eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to the lamp of God – His truth in His word. Keep the Faith.