When what you see isn’t real

My alarm went off at 6:00 am on Saturday morning, as it does almost every day. But Saturday was different. As I rolled over to turn off the alarm everything began spinning violently. It took several seconds to figure which of the phones blurring in front of my eyes was the real one. I laid back and watched the room spin around me, thinking it would stop as soon as my eyes adjusted. When I got up to use the bathroom, however, the floor lurched violently to the left, then to the right. I stumbled wildly to the bathroom and then back to bed. I lay on my back, eyes closed tightly to block out the jumping, spinning world around me. Waves of nausea and panic swept over me as I realized something had gone horribly wrong in the night. Either the earth had been knocked off its axis, or I was having my first encounter with vertigo. Three days flat on my back, several medical tests and a cocktail of meds later I have concluded the earth is ok and I’m slowly recovering from vertigo. I imagine hell will be vertigo for eternity, with a side of flames.
Here’s the thing about vertigo, it’s not real. The world appears to be jumping and spinning out of control, but it’s not. It’s all in my head. Something in my inner ear is messed up, and it’s changing my perception of the world. The earth is fine, I’m the one with the problem. The disconcerting thing, however, is that all my previous experience tells me I’m ok, it’s the world that’s messed up. The knowledge that the ground is not actually moving, and my arm around my incredible wife’s steady shoulder are what gets me through the tough parts of the day.

There’s a saying that perception is reality, but vertigo has convinced me that it is not. Perception is just the tiny window I have on the world, and I wonder how many times my perception of that world is completely wrong? My perception of God, of relationships, of the “real” world. The Apostle Paul said,  

“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT

To paraphrase, we all suffer from vertigo. The things we think we know are only our flawed perceptions of the world around us. That is why we have to stand on the solid ground of biblical truth, and rely on the steadying hand of unconditional love. We cannot trust what we perceive to be true, and we cannot find balance without friends we love and who love us in return. Because of the vertigo brought on by living in a world warped by sin, daily grounding in God’s word and regular time spent with a small group of Christ followers is our only hope of making sense out of this tilt-a-whirl life.

That sounds so religiously trite, doesn’t it? “All you need is the Bible and a good Christian friend”‘ sounds like something a TV evangelist would say right before selling you a timeshare in Jesusland. And it is trite until you realize how completely tainted your worldview really is. Last Friday I never gave walking down a set of stairs a second thought; today every step is a triumph. When we realize just how out of whack our worldview really is we’ll grab the Bible and hold onto friends like I grip the handrail and Sherry’s shoulder. We all have vertigo, the question is how we will deal with it.
As for me every day brings a little improvement. Today I can walk without falling down. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll leave the house. Or maybe the day after…

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