Have you ever made a judgement of something or someone, only to find out later that you were entirely wrong? I’m going tell you one of my own such errors, the tale of me and a bank of moss.
I’ve walked past this side of a hill many times. It’s the kind of open spot in an otherwise forested area where it’s painfully obvious that it was at one time scraped into by some large piece of power equipment, leaving a gaping scar in the earth. Over time, as God blessedly made it to do, vegetation had slowly crept back in to attempt to heal the wound. In this case, that vegetation was moss.
But the poor, dry soil seemed had gotten the better of it, and it was mostly rusty brown, dead moss! I always rather pitied that ugly mossy hillside and hurried past to prettier things.
And then, one day, I decided to take a shortcut to where I wanted to go and actually walk straight up that hillside. I expected the wasting moss to crunch and crumble beneath my feet, my feet to slip in exposed clay. But to my utter surprise, what I found instead was a soft, thriving, cushioned carpet of lush rusty-brown very-much-alive moss! What from a distance had appeared brown and dead, wasn’t dead at all! It just happened to be a naturally reddish-brown variety!After that, I forgot what I was going to do on the other side of the hill. I was down on my knees, then on my stomach (sorry, baby), an explorer in magnificent new miniature world. I’ve always loved the world of fungi, and it was exhilarating to meet varieties I’d never seen before in person for the very first time.
And I felt rather foolish. How many countless times had I walked past, loftily thinking I could accurately judge what I saw from a distance, never taking the time to actually get up close and fact-check my judgement?There is the judgement between right and wrong, truth and lie, meted out by courts of law, mothers weighing out eye-witness accounts and facts to determine who actually took the cookies, and by God at the end of the world. This kind of judgement is good, righteous and necessary for order and justice.
Then there is this kind of judgement I made on this mossy hillside. Not the justice kind, but the writing off kind. That moss is brown, I thought, therefore it could not possibly be anything but dead. I based this “fact” off of past experience and (what I thought) was a good understanding of moss. But it was not a fact, it was an assumption—and even though it was an educated assumption, I was wrong. This is called “leaning on my own understanding”, which the book of Proverbs warns against and is basically thinking so highly of our own discernment and knowledge that we ultimately end up making fools of ourselves.
I’d like to say this is the only time I’ve ever made this mistake. That I’ve never misjudged anything or anyone more significant than a bed of dead-looking moss. But I’ve made plenty of other such errors.
I’ve assumed I wouldn’t like certain foods because my parents didn’t.
I’ve “judged a book by its cover” without ever cracking it open.
I’ve failed to shop at a store based on it’s exterior, without ever entering.
Though I may have missed out on enriching experiences, these too-quick judgments will likely not affect my life negatively in the grand scheme of things, of course. There’s one kind of mis-judgement that I truly regret, however. It’s that I’ve sometimes based how I think of a person off of stereotypes, other people’s prejudices or my own pre-conceived notions instead of finding out what they’re really like for myself.I’ll never forget the time my wise father encouraged me as a young person to reach out to another new young lady at church. Without having ever spoken to her, I had already decided, in all my youthful “wisdom”, that we probably wouldn’t have much in common and had foolishly written off the idea of friendship. Out of respect for him, however, I agreed to make the effort to introduce myself, though I expected little to come of it. And what do you suppose happened? You guessed it: we not only met but became good friends, and a relationship blossomed that would be a tremendous blessing to me in upcoming times of unexpected loneliness. I often think about how much I would have missed if I had followed my foolish inclination to write her off instead of stepping outside of my comfort zone. It’s a lesson with a happy ending that I will never forget.
Can you think of something or someone in your life that you might be making this same mistake with? If so, I hope my stories might make you consider going back to double-check your facts. You never know: you might discover a new variety of moss or even make a new best friend.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
“…you shall investigate and search out and inquire thoroughly. If it is true and the matter established, [then]…” (Deuteronomy 13:14)
“…the honour of kings is to search out a matter.” (Proverbs 25:2)