Appearances Can Deceive

Appearances Can Deceive

Sebastian McDonald, C.P.
Sebastian McDonald, C.P.

A number of years ago I was on a sabbatical at Princeton University, in New Jersey. While there I stayed in the house accommodating priests serving the needs of the Catholic students on campus. During my stay, one of the priests resident there inquired whether I would be interested in walking his dog, while he took off a few days for some R and R. He made this request because he was aware I was an avid walker, morning and evening.   So I said I would be happy to do so.

This was an impressive specimen of a dog. A very large animal, of German vintage, he had a massive head with green eyes protruding from it. The mouth was large, as was his body, sporting a close-cropped grayish coat, displaying some very evident muscles rippling along the frame with which he was endowed. Fortunately, he was a good-natured beast, who always looked forward to taking a walk. Nonetheless, I kept him close at hand on a sturdy leash.

When he and I walked together along the sidewalks of the very well-to-do neighborhoods, typical of Princeton, passersby always took care to give us adequate passageway, sometimes even crossing the street. I too was the beneficiary of the respect shown this animal. We amicably pursued our morning and evening walks in this fashion, until one early weekday morning.   From the other side of the street, on the spacious front lawn of an elegant home, came a series of high-pitched yapping sounds emanating from a very small dog sporting a white, fluffy mane.   As we pursued our placid walk along our side of the street, our only concern was waking up the neighborhood, since it was early, and the little dog continued his barking barrage as we proceeded peacefully along, until we were directly across the street from him.

At that point he bolted out of his yard and dashed across the street, directly toward us. I shortened the leash on the dog I had, fearful that he would lunge out at the little intruder and do him considerable harm. But on the contrary, as he charged straight at us, “my” dog stopped and started trembling, while the little fluffy one lowered his head, leaped up and rammed himself into the side of this massive animal beside me, knocking him over on his side, then standing over him in a threatening manner while continuing to yap victoriously over my trembling animal, completely subdued. When the little fellow satisfied himself that he had won the day, he pranced back across the street to his own yard.

I was dumbfounded at this one-sided skirmish, and had to pull the behemoth from his prone position on the sidewalk, to an upright position. I looked furtively around to see whether anyone else had observed this incredible fiasco, perhaps peering out through one of the lace-curtained windows of one of the elegant homes lining either side of the street. We then sheepishly made our way home by the shortest route possible, and disappeared within the safety of our own confines.

Needless to say, my own esteem of this massive animal living with us was seriously deflated, and our subsequent walks sought out other streets for our exercise. But we no longer enjoyed the esteem that accompanied us in our previous walks.

This was a replay of the David and Goliath biblical encounter, showing that appearances are not what they seem to be.   There is another element that enters into the conflicts of life. Certainly, self-confidence is one of those. In the case of David, of course, it was self-confidence larded with confidence in the Lord.

And, in addition, there is the skill at assessing the opposition or difficulty one faces. While initially it may seem formidable and even overwhelming, sometimes a bit of patience and careful consideration can considerably reduce the fearfulness of the opposition we are facing. Certainly the little dog in the story above accurately assessed the opposition he was about to go up against, and calculated his chances of success with care and precision.   What appears to be the case may only apparently be so, and those convinced of this can confidently persuade themselves that “the bigger they are, the harder they fall”.

Appearances are deceptive. They are not always what they purport to be. There are other elements entering into challenging and formidable situations, and these often spell the difference between success and failure, victory and defeat. An indomitable spirit is a key element in surmounting life’s problems and difficulties, and when fortified by God’s grace/help, proves equal to the challenges of life.


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