Many years back a friend and I headed off to Eastern New Mexico for a camping trip. I remember getting a speeding ticket on the way. The most memorable event was my friend James and I getting treed by a herd of wild goats. We were camping in the Santa Fe National Forest. Once we had camp set up we noticed the emergence of these goats out in the wild. They were looking at us with their bulging killer eyes and the next thing we knew, five or six goats burst into our campsite. I would like to tell you that we slew them with Swiss Army knives and ate barbecued goat over an open campfire, but I am working on being more honest. What really happened is we got frightened and climbed a tree. Finally, we were able to shoo away the goats by raining pine cones down on them until they decided to move along. The story would end there, but it gets better. A few weeks after our weekend in the wilderness, we were with some mutual friends and shared that we had been camping. Upon hearing our location, one of our friends, a calm and reserved woman asked if we had seen the goats. Something in her tone made it clear that she did not consider these herbivores predatory in any way. We offered a meek “yes,” and she told of how she loved how friendly the goats were and how they would come up and eat out of your hands.
The Power of Perception
We had two completely different perceptions which led to drastically different experiences. Were the goats James and I encountered truly dangerous? Not in the least, but our perception of them allowed us to think of them only as a threat. The lens through which we looked led us to our erroneous conclusion. In the middle of Jesus’ greatest recorded sermon he says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. Therefore, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how terrible that darkness will be!” Matthew 6:22-23 Contextually these verses seem out of place, but I believe Jesus is reminding us of the importance of our perspective, the perceptions we live with daily. If we live with the perception that life is chaotic and God is absent, we will find our experience confirming what we believe to be true. Our perception does not change reality, but it does control our experience of reality. In this sense, the Bible becomes paramount in shaping how we see our life and the world. This in turn changes what we get to experience day by day. Don’t climb the trees and forfeit the experience of having the goats eat out of the palm of you hand!