Dr. Jamie Jenkins: Things Are Not Always as They Appear

Things are not always as they appear. Sometimes they are better. Sometimes they are worse than it seems at first glance.

When I looked outside this morning the sun was shining and the skies were a beautiful blue. One could easily assume that it was shirt sleeve weather but just one step outside and I knew better. The 32 degree temperature and the gentle breeze helped me to know a coat and hat was needed.

I was running a little late last week on my way to preach at a church about 60 miles away. The traffic light turned red as I approached. I quickly assessed the vehicles ahead of me. An elderly man in an old beaten up pick up truck was in my lane. In the other lane was a young man in a late model sporty red car. As I approached the light I changed lanes to stop behind the Mustang. Surely he would allow me to get on down the road quickly.

The light changed and the old pick up truck sped away leaving the rest of us behind. It disappeared down the road while I trudged along below the speed limit behind the red Mustang. I had misjudged the drivers of both of the vehicles. The young man seemed to be an overly cautious driver while the older man drove with abandon.

Recently I received an email from a Dr.Achaempau Wilson offering me millions of dollars if I would just help him out a little. It sounded like the dream of a lifetime. I could be financially set for the rest of my life and it required nothing of me. Wow! Of course you know that anything too good to be true usually is and this kind of con game is so common you would think that no one would fall for it. But... things are not always as they appear.

Several years ago I was driving around the Marietta Square and I saw one of our leading United Methodist clergy trying to unlock a car door with a coat hanger. Someone who did not know this individual could have concluded that he was a criminal attempting to steal an automobile. But he was simply trying to get into his car because he had locked the keys inside.

I enjoy sampling the food of the region when I travel. Whether it is barbecue in the southwestern U.S. or sushi in Japan, food is an important part of the experience. There have been times when something looked so appetizing but upon tasting it I have been disappointed. At other times I have been pleasantly surprised.

Physical appearance can lead us to wrong assessments of people. Our clothing or hair style can influence others in their judgment of us. It is easy to stereotype everyone who likes certain music, has body piercings and tattoos, or wears a coat and tie. The car we drive or the neighborhood we live in can lead others to "pigeon-hole" us.

It is true that you cannot always judge a book by its cover. First appearances are often deceiving. Things are not always as they appear.

A young woman was pregnant and she was not married. She gave birth to a baby boy in a small town. In a stable. Surely nothing good could come of this. But the story of the birth of Jesus and the world-changing results remind us that things are not always as they appear.

As we move through this second week of Advent and make preparations for the Christmas celebration, let us look for the unlikely ways that God will appear to us. Let us pray that God will allow us to see beneath the surface and beyond the obvious to discover the wonder of God's grace.

Jamie Jenkins

[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," Dec. 6, 2010. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]