Guest column

Many reasons to not judge by appearances

By LIZ THOMPSON
Wednesday November 21, 2012 10:53 PM

Appearances can be deceiving. What looks soft and furry might actually be quite the opposite.

Recently we were camping in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee. I spotted an unusual looking caterpillar and grabbed my camera to be able to show my grandchildren later. I knew enough not to handle this creature and that discernment was wise, I would learn days later.

A camper told me these Saddleback caterpillars can inject venom from poison sacs carried at their base, and the painful sting can cause humans problems for days. To get the sting out one had to put masking tape on the spot and pull. I felt silly for snapping so many pictures. A tiny creature can do harm to humans so it stands to reason that size isn’t always the determinant of danger.

A ranger told me that the Smokies environment ranks second only to the rain forest for the number of species living there. This event of mine didn’t repeat, in any form, for which I’m thankful.

Discernment is a good word and something we all need to practice daily. Some of my favorite synonyms include perceptiveness, sageness, keenness and wit. I was able to perceive this caterpillar might have hidden dangers even though it appeared harmless.

We need that ability more today than in the 1950s, those of us past about age 60 can tell you. To be able to walk into any given situation and have the wit to know if there are hidden dangers or even hidden treasures, is a gift.

At times it’s as simple as knowing how to avoid traffic jams and other times it could be life-altering situations.

In my recent book, God Whispers: Nudges, Fudges and Butterfly Moments, I talk about God nudging us in the right direction, in the small and large areas of our lives. Contributors’ stories confirm we have experiences when we simply know what to do. We need to be keenly aware how God directs us.

Interpreting these nudges as discernment is correct. A biblical definition says the gift of discernment is the ability to recognize what is genuine from what is pretense; what is of God from what is not of God. Now I know God made that caterpillar but he also gave it defenses.

Most of us have likely been judged unfairly at one time or another for our appearance.

The word perception, and in this case perceive, had new meaning for me when I turned 50. I don’t hear like the average person. I perceive sound. Not in the way I knew the caterpillar might be a problem but in the way I hear.

By the time I was 50, I was deaf from nerve deafness since childhood with no known cause. But all the years my hearing was leaving me, technology was advancing to the point that a cochlear implant would restore my ability to hear and discern speech again. I’m still deaf; my ears do not work at all. But the voice processors I wear on my ears that look like hearing aids, allow me to perceive sound.

I had years to hear sounds and voices, although I didn’t always understand the words, so my brain is filled with memory.

Do you ever get a song “stuck” in your head and no matter what it runs again and again? It’s enough to drive you to distraction. That is how I define my music memory. When I hear music now, if I don’t know the song, it sounds like one or two notes. But if I know the name of the song and I knew it before deafness, I can “hear” it.

When I hear a sound that has action, like wind blowing the trees, I match the sound with the movement so I know it is wind I’m hearing. Since my first implant in 2002, and my second in the other ear in 2009, I have retrained my brain to these sounds and now I listen and enjoy.

What a miracle.

This takes us back to appearances can be deceiving. You can’t see deafness or hearing loss. There are many unseen conditions people have. From aches and pains, to cancer or emotional problems and, in this economy, financial problems.

We need to cut our fellow travelers a break and become less judgmental when appearances scream otherwise. Learn to look into the heart of the person like God does.

But watch out for those unknown furry creatures, too.

Grove City resident and author Liz Thompson is a guest columnist for ThisWeekNews.

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