This week we’ve been “staging” our house for sale. Purging. Simplifying. Hucking. Wiping. Arranging. The idea is to show people how much room we have. To give the impression that the house is bigger than it really is, if possible. To show off the good things about the home and minimize the shortcomings. This is part of the deal, part of the selling and buying process.

Imagine Shauna and I visiting other houses with our realtor, homes also “staged” to make an impression.

“Wow,” I think. “These people are neat freaks. There’s not a dishcloth, not a book out of place.”

“And look at the flowers on the dining room table,” Shauna adds, giving me the elbow. “They’re fresh. Her husband must buy her fresh flowers every couple of days.”

That would be stupid. What we’re looking at is a stage. For an act. Ten times out of ten, this is not the way people actually live. When it comes to the housing market game, we know this. We accept it. But it makes me wonder about the way I live outside the housing market. How many decisions do I make based on impressions I’ve snagged from staging? How many of my choices are “informed” by outward appearances instead of inward realities?

This week I’ve made several “educated” guesses that have turned out to be dead wrong.

1. The Contractor. Last summer we got some work done on our house—renos designed to make our house more marketable should we decide to sell. The grout and caulking between the backsplash and countertops in the kitchen cracked open almost right away, so they sent a guy back to fix it. His work also cracked and pulled away within a few weeks, and we were tempted to give up on the craftsmanship of this Contractor until we realized it was time to sell and I didn’t want to do it myself. Two weeks ago Shauna called back and left a clear message asking them to contact us. Days went by. A week. Two weeks. At which point I said, “Shauna, the sad truth is that we paid them a few months ago and they’re probably annoyed that we keep complaining. This is their way of being done with us.”

Half an hour later, the guy called back, profusely apologetic. He’d been on vacation. The next day the grout was fixed.

2. Joel, our youngest, is prone to stomach aches and over-eating. And puking later. All to say that 1am toilet vigils with our little man because he ate five muffins when we weren’t looking are getting a little old. After watching him scarf down Veitnamese over supper last night (and promptly deposit said supper all over the curb in a (mostly un-chewed) noodle apocalypse half an hour later) I knew exactly what was going on. He wasn’t sick. Not at all. He’d eaten like a pig and was paying for it. This was a growing up moment.

Imagine my surprise when he puked again an hour later. And then this morning. Huh. I guess he really is sick.

I’m reminded of Jesus’ words here:

“Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly… by myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 7:24; 5:30)

Aw, snap.How do we judge correctly what’s going on around us?

1. Stop judging by appearances. Mere ones. In fact, most appearances ARE mere by nature. Staging. Surface. Book covers that may or may not reflect what’s hidden beneath them. Do not assume what you see is entirely accurate.

2. Remember that without God, you can do nothing. You’re probably getting it wrong. Don’t lean on your own understanding.

3. Try not to draw conclusions until you’ve heard from God on the matter. Where possible, ask God for wisdom and eyesight an insight and let him inform you.

3. Remember that your filter and opinions are often skewed, often badly, by your motive. Someone has once said, “We do not see the world as it is, but as we are.” That’s brilliant. We project our desires, our dreams, our goals, onto the world around us. And then we try to make it fit. Jesus didn’t do that. His goal in discernment wasn’t to be right, not to get his way, but to please his Father in heaven. So ask God to purify your motives.

So let me try this out.

The Contractor

Mere appearance: It looks like he’s ignoring us.

Remind myself of my limited perspective and need for God: Didn’t even cross my mind. It was obvious, wasn’t it? Apparently not.

Ask God for wisdom: Didn’t do that either. Instead, I projected my own opinion (which often attributes negative qualities to people without discretion). “They’re trying to screw us over.” Or not.

Check my motive: To get my backsplash fixed. NOW. Not to please God. Not to walk by faith, in love.

Is it any wonder I got it wrong?

I’m not much of an all-knowing Judge. I’m a lousy jury, too. And the executioner bit isn’t usually helpful. Maybe I should just stick with the servant thing.