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FIRST-PERSON: What do you see?

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EL CAJON, Calif. (BP) – Caitlin McNeil, a 21-year-old Scottish singer, and her friends couldn’t agree about the color of a dress they saw on the Internet. Some in their group saw the dress with blue and black horizontal stripes while others saw the stripes as white and gold. To settle the matter, Caitlin posted a picture of the dress to her Tumblr blog asking her readers, “What color is this dress?” Instead of settling the question, a firestorm of debate erupted over social media.

Caitlin posted the picture, and within 24 hours it had gone viral: 11 million posts on Twitter and more than 28 million views on BuzzFeed – the site’s most popular post ever. About 69 percent of the people who saw the dress said it was white and gold with 31 percent saying it was black and blue. (As you might expect, asking the online world to agree on anything is a lost cause.)

But then the scientists, at the request of online and mainstream media outlets, got involved. First, they asked the manufacturer of the dress what color the dress was. Finally, a firm answer: The dress is made and marketed as a black and blue dress. So why were the majority of people seeing it as gold and white? If you think the exact world of science had a unified answer, you’d have to think again – it just depends on which scientist you ask.

And, as it turns out, it just depends on what kind of brain you have. The scientific consensus was that the way our brains interpret the light entering our eyes, light reflected off the world around us, is highly variable. In different situations, under different lighting, the same person could see two different color patterns in the same dress.

So there – it’s an optical illusion of some sort. We’ve all seen images and designs that are optical illusions. Sometimes, when we stare at one of those images for a while, it suddenly changes, and we see something slightly different. We are amazed when that happens! It makes us do exactly what the dress phenomenon did – ask a friend, “What do you see when you look at this?”

What should we conclude about the possibility of seeing things that are not really there, about misinterpreting an image or an experience in life? It makes us realize that we need something more solid than our five senses to interpret what we experience in this world. Life is not always as it appears to be!

I’m talking here about things of bigger consequence than the color of clothes or the shape of an optical illusion. Instead, I’m talking about the experiences and circumstances of life and how they might appear to us at first glance. Something happens and we draw a conclusion about God (who is supposed to be in control of all things) or others. And then later, upon reflection, we view the same event or circumstance in a totally different way. How is it possible that we could look at the same event in two different ways? It is possible because of our limited spiritual vision and understanding.

As a quick reminder, remember the words of Isaiah 55:9: God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours. That verse reminds us that God is perfect and we are not; God is all-knowing, and we are not. If God and I look at the same event, I know He will see what is really there while I may not.

So what do we do? We have to bow before Him in every situation and say, “Father, I submit my understanding to You. Please help me see as You see; let the eyes of my understanding be opened.” That’s a humbling task, I know. We like to believe we’re right – and we may be. But it is far better to hold our judgments lightly while we wait for God to clear up any spiritual optical illusion we are experiencing. Instead of trusting ourselves, let’s trust the God who sees everything as it really is!

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—from whence comes my help?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber.…

The Lord shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul.

(Psalm 121:1-3, 7)

    About the Author

  • David Jeremiah

    David Jeremiah is the founder and host of Turning Point for God and senior pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church in El Cajon, Calif. For more information on Turning Point, go to www.DavidJeremiah.org.

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