No matter how one may plan for the future, certain events can sometimes occur to hinder the plans or derail them completely. Then one must either alter the ones or start all over with new ones. Such is the case when things, situations and people are not what or whom they seem to be. For example, I am sure that most mothers desire to see their children succeed in life, and some mothers make many sacrifices in order to achieve this goal. It is especially rewarding to a mother who has taught her children true values and high ethical and moral standards to see them continue on this course as they grow into adulthood and become successful in life.
Sadly, however, this is not always the way things turn out, because some children as they grow older (particularly teens and young adults) tend to go astray from these basic teachings due to temptations and peer pressure from their worldly friends—especially if the child attends a public school. Some few even resort to a hypocritical, double-life type of behavior—they may play the role of the trustworthy, respectful, obedient child at home, but when around their worldly peers in certain situations, they give in to temptations and peer pressure and just “go along with the crowd.” Then when this type of behavior is discovered or exposed, it can be very traumatic and sometimes devastating for all concerned, especially if the child has gotten into some type of serious trouble.
My husband, as a minister, has had to counsel with people in these types of situations, whose plans were altered and lives changed because things were not as they seemed to be. This old saying is certainly true, that “a child gone wrong can break a mother’s heart.” Case in point: Many years ago I was acquainted with a widow (now deceased) who had two young adult sons. On the surface these sons seemed to be fine upstanding young men. However, they had one habit that caused their mother much grief. On the weekends, they would frequent the bars and nightclubs and party until the wee hours of the morning, and quite often would get into arguments and altercations with other patrons. This weekend party habit was a carryover from their stint in the military when they would receive weekend passes. They, like most recruits, would then travel to the nearest city, which was usually wide open to the military for their entertainment, and they would party to their hearts’ content. This became an enjoyable habit.
I was told that on the nights these sons were out partying, their mother would walk the floors worrying herself sick over them. I heard her say on more than one occasion, “Sometimes I wish I had never had any children. Then maybe I could have some peace.” In retrospect, I wish I could have found some way to comfort her, but being young myself at the time, I just did not know what to say or do. Scripture says, “A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him” (Proverbs 17:25). This was certainly true for this dear lady. Thankfully, the situation did get better later on as the sons matured.
During the early years of my husband’s ministry, a young Ambassador College graduate was sent to our church area as a ministerial trainee. He had been dating a young lady who was also a graduate. He was so enamored with her that he was thinking along the lines that if he were ever a minister, she would make an excellent minister’s wife. She just seemed to “fit the bill.” This would then fulfill his aspirations of serving God in the ministry with a loyal, dedicated wife by his side.
They continued to date as much as time and distance would allow. Then, on one of his visits to see her, he received the shock of his life. She informed him in no uncertain terms by her words and actions that she did not have the same goals and aspirations as he did. She said that she desired to pursue her own career (which of course is not wrong), which would take her in a different direction. He marveled that he had not picked up on her feelings sooner. Apparently he had either been looking at her through rose-colored glasses (where everything looks and seems to be very rosy) or she had somehow given him the wrong impression along the way. Things were definitely not what they seemed to be. Of course he was disappointed, but once he woke up to reality, he realized that it was best for both of them to go their separate ways.
Later on he became interested in a young lady in the local congregation who came from a staunch Church family. They began to date and eventually were married, with both having the same goals in life—to serve God side-by-side.
Going back further in time before becoming members of the Church, my husband had written in and requested a visit from one of the Church’s representatives. We had been taking the Church literature for some time. So after a few weeks, two young men came to our door dressed very nicely in suits and ties. I excitedly told my husband, “They are here!” They asked if they could come in. I replied, “Absolutely. We are so glad to see you.” We all sat down, my husband and I on the edge of our seats eagerly waiting to hear what they had to say. A few minutes into the conversation, we realized that they were not who we thought they were. These two young men were selling funeral plots and headstones. We had made a wrong assumption—again, things were not as they seemed to be! Looking back on the scene, I have to laugh—even though it was not funny at the time.
During the early years of our membership in the Church, a young man, a stranger, came to our local congregation’s services one Sabbath. He said he was very poor and was having difficulty getting back on his feet financially. His sad story tugged at our heartstrings. So, obeying Christ’s word to be kind to strangers, we took him home with us and he spent the night. We helped him in every way we could and even gave him money as he left our home the next day. Later on we found out that this young man had been going around to different congregations, telling his sad story and taking advantage of the brethren’s kindness and generosity. He had certainly taken advantage of us. Things were not as they seemed to be at all. We learned a valuable lesson, however—to continue to be kind to strangers—but very cautious as well.
Shine a True Light
Many things, situations and people are not what or whom they seem to be, and all the different forms this can take are far too numerous to even begin to mention here. That is why it is so important to be genuine (authentic, real, honest) in everything we say or do. Christ instructs us: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13–16).
Over the years I have quite often heard of one who is truly genuine being described as “The Real Deal.” Scripture shows Christ speaking of Nathanael in this manner. “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ And Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming, and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!’” (John 1:45–47). Nathanael was the “Real Deal.”
God allowed Deborah the prophetess to judge Israel. “Now Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, was judging Israel at that time. And she would sit under the palm tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountains of Ephraim. And the children of Israel came up to her for judgment” (Judges 4:4–5). She was the “Real Deal”—if she were not, God would not have used her to judge His people!
So as we continue to grow in God’s holy, righteous character, let us remember always to be genuine—to the core through and through—the “Real Deal”!