Before I was tall enough to reach the kitchen cabinets over my head, I sat on the hump in the back seat of my grandparents yellow Buick on summer road trips. My bare legs stuck to the white vinyl bench seat and I asked if we were almost there yet, every half hour. I couldn’t wait to get to the place of fairy dust, where my life transformed into an imagined tale.
We joined my Aunt and Uncle Brock and their granddaughter Tracy, for a week on the Lake of the Ozarks every summer. Our neighboring rooms with squeaky screen doors and rusty water at the first turn of the faucet nestled deep in the woods. I slept on the pullout couch in the living room, arms touching the kitchen sink, feet at the front door.
On sunny days, I stood next to my grandpa on a dock, threading worms on hooks, learning how to cast and reel the bluegill he cooked for dinner. He spent most of his time pulling floppy fish off my hook while laughing about how fast I caught them.
Even though I salivated just thinking about summer’s first bite of flaky white fish battered cornmeal, I felt compassion over the fate of those fish swimming in that wire basket. I made up all kinds of stories in my head about fishy conversation happening among them below the water line.
When I wasn’t fishing, I swam in the lake with my cousin Tracy. Afterward we held dollar bills in our wrinkly fingers, walked to the property store to buy candy. The trailor with the air conditioner propped up in the window. Sandy, the owner’s retriever with the white furry mask stalked close behind, hoping for a stray tootsie roll.
As we both stretched out of adolescence, they moved the vacation to a more alluring motel. A place complete with a pool slide, television, and restaurant. The charm of fishing off the dock, cooking our own meals, swimming in the lake and buying a bag full of candy with a dollar became like postcards laying in a drawer. And that’s when I found out.
The auburn headed, lanky girl that I idolized, she wasn’t really my cousin. Not even a family member. She lived next door to my childless aunt and uncle. They treated her as their own for as long as she lived in their neighborhood.
And even though Tracy called them Grandma and Grandpa and remained the same person with whom I shared my adolescent angst, my heart sank the day I found out. My first lesson in, things aren’t always as they seem.
Have you ever discovered something that cracked the shell off your perception, surprised by reality?
My disappointment wasn’t as much about the reality of the truth as my ideal of it. It’s something I’ve grappled with most of my life, the disparity between reality and perception.
But Jesus isn’t an ideal; he is the truth. And there’s false hope in thinking only those things we can understand are truly knowable.
Because when our perception shatters it doesn’t always mean we must abandon the reality. Sometimes He gives new glasses for tired eyes, to see with panoramic clarity.
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8
And the truth? I did travel to a place of fairy dust in my childhood, and Tracy not being my cousin, it doesn’t change that fact. The story just turned out differently than I imagined.