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Pastor Glenn McDonald: Assumptions

A few years ago, an author recounted her experience waiting for a flight in an airport lounge.

She got out her newspaper and opened up a small package of cookies she had purchased to fend off hunger.

After a few minutes, she heard a rustling sound beside her. She looked from behind her newspaper and was astonished to see a neatly dressed businessman helping himself to her cookies.

She couldn’t believe it.

Deciding it would be foolish to make a scene over a couple of chocolate chips, she reached down and took a cookie for herself. Incredibly, so did the man. This went on a few more minutes, tit for tat, until all the cookies were gone except for one.

By this time she was so angry she didn’t trust herself to say anything.

As if to add insult to injury, the man reached over with a smile and took the last cookie, broke it in two, pushed half of it in her direction, then gathered up his things and left without so much as an apology.

A few moments later, still fuming, she heard her flight announced over the public address system. When she reached into her purse to retrieve her boarding pass, imagine her surprise when she discovered her own unopened bag of cookies.

We need to rethink the way we think.

Specifically, we need to consider the very real possibility that we don’t always know exactly what’s happening right in front of us. As Mark Twain put it, it’s not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble. It’s what we think we know for sure that “just ain’t so.”

Bad assumptions can lead to big problems.

That’s certainly true when it comes to relating to the people we think we know the best. Are you gritting your teeth as you head into the holidays, certain that someone in your family has disrespected or out-and-out rejected you? Are you willing to consider the possibility that you’ve allowed yourself to misinterpret what’s really happening?

Faulty assumptions can also derail our relationship with God.

If you’re going through hard times right now, you might assume that God is angry. Perhaps you offended him somehow. Or if you’re pursuing a relationship or pattern of behavior that you know is flat wrong, and there haven’t been any negative consequences, you might assume that God doesn’t care about integrity or holiness after all.

Those are major mistakes.

Spiritual assumptions must be tested against Scriptural truths. What we think and feel on our own simply isn’t going to cut it.

The accounts of Jesus’ birth, likewise, are famously illustrative of how assumptions can take us down the wrong path. Many of those awaiting the Messiah’s arrival assumed that a fully-grown champion would descend from heaven in spectacular fashion, armed to the teeth, ready to elevate Israel and kick the Roman Empire to the curb. Herod, for his part, assumed that he could thwart God’s plan with a show of force.

Who knew that when the Messiah actually arrived, he would weigh in at about, oh, seven pounds and three ounces?

No one saw that one coming.

Assumptions can cause us to miss the ways that God is shaping history. Including our own histories.

So give a gift to yourself and to others this Christmas. Be gentle. Be humble. Keep your mind open.

Especially if you discover that your own bag of cookies, against all expectations, still happens to be closed.


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