by David Sisler
One of the most prosperous areas in our nation is central Florida, the area of Disney World, Epcot Center, Universal Studios, all of the tourist attractions. Do you know that 40 years ago, that area was all undeveloped land and tourists went to southern Florida?
When Walt Disney began to look for a site for a second theme park, he contacted Haydon Burns, governor of Florida. In strict, almost sacred, confidentiality, Governor Burns dealt with Walt Disney. If word of the negotiations had leaked out, real estate prices in the Orlando area would have sky-rocketed and Disney would have gone to another state.
Those negotiations and that well-kept secret have helped make not merely central Florida, but all of the state, extremely prosperous. But would you believe that when Haydon Burns stood for reelection, he lost?
His opponent, Robert King High, did research which indicated there was an element of suspicion about Governor Burns in the public mind. Nothing could be pinpointed. There was nothing he had done. It was just a suspicion.
So a campaign was built on that idea, on that perception of the Governor. The opposition's slogan? "Integrity! Vote for Robert King High."
On the basis of that perception, Haydon Burns lost and retired from public life.
"How is your new job at the factory," one man asked another.
"I'm not going back there."
"For many reasons," he answered. "The sloppiness, the shoddy workmanship, the awful language. My boss just wouldn't put up with it."
Matthew and Mark each wrote about a woman who appraised herself just as honestly as that worker. She took no public opinion polls. She perceived herself with wide-eyed honesty.
Jesus left Jerusalem and went into pagan territory, stopping at the city of Tyre. While He was there, a Canaanite woman, a worshipper of false gods, came to Jesus and said, "Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon possession."
This woman recognized in Jesus something she had never seen before. So she went to Him with her most urgent request - the healing of her daughter. On the surface of it you would think Jesus would be honored to be recognized as Messiah by this stranger. But the Bible says He did not speak a single word to her.
She was so persistent, the disciples urged Jesus to send her away. When Jesus finally spoke directly to the woman he said, "It is not right to give the children's bread to the dogs."
Our use of language has not changed all that much. To call someone a dog is not a term of endearment. But the woman did not argue. With an honesty that touched Jesus, she said, "That is true, Lord. But the dogs under the table can eat the pieces of food that the children don't eat. Even the dogs eat the pieces of food that fall from their masters' table."
Jesus answered, "Woman, you have great faith! I will do what you asked me to do."
In 1964 Barry Goldwater said he believed in "defoliation" in Vietnam. He meant a chemical should be used to strip the vegetation. The public perceived defoliation as using nuclear weapons.
Based on that perception one of the most famous television commercials of all time was developed. It showed a little girl first picking flowers and then being destroyed as the mushroom cloud from an atomic blast filled the screen. Goldwater's dreams of the presidency were crushed in a landslide.
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, one of the comments I hear most often is how President George W. Bush has "grown into the office," or has "risen to the occasion." To believe that could be possible would be to believe that President Bush was immature before the attacks, and he has somehow, only now, "come of age." To believe that could be possible would be to believe that anyone in his position would have responded as he has.
Those who know President Bush well, when they hear those trite comments, remark, "Your perception of the man was wrong - he has always been as he is now. He just does not have to shout for attention, but rather, quietly, with dignity, gets the job done."
Perception is everything. What is more important - your own self-image, your public perception, or the way God sees you? The weight of eternity balances on your answer.
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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