I’m not a big fan of the “For Dummies” publishing empire. Let’s just say if “Home Repair for Dummies” put on a concert, I wouldn’t buy a ticket.
For those of you unfamiliar with the “For Dummies” genre, these books exist to educate the ignorant and easily confused masses. Therefore, these mentoring manuscripts cover almost every topic within the spectrum of human existence. The titles range from Gardening for Dummies to Gargling for Dummies to Nuclear Reactors for Dummies. The educational needs of dummies are so great that supply is perpetually struggling to keep up with demand. At least that’s what I read in Economics for Dummies.
My problem with these supposedly helpful books is they can make an average dummy feel like a complete moron. I’m no rocket scientist (Rocket Science for Dummies has not yet been released), but I still have most of my neurons firing. Even so, I once read a “For Dummies” book I simply could not understand. It was rather debilitating to realize I was too stupid to even understand material crafted for the express purpose of educating dimwits.
To make matters worse, I didn’t discover my ineptitude until my “For Dummies” book had lured me into a false sense of proficiency. As I read the introductory chapters, I began to feel I was destined to learn this previously confusing material. It seemed that I wasn’t the problem after all. Rather, it was my former teachers and those confusing text books that had kept me from understanding. Thankfully, this “For Dummies” book seemed to be written in my language.
These were my perceptions until I reached a brick wall of confusion masked as chapter six. Chapters one through five made perfect sense. However, chapter six made absolutely no sense at all. It was as if the foreign film subtitles suddenly disappeared. I became a confused dog frantically searching for a stick my cruel master had neglected to actually throw. Sure, he made the throwing motion, but the stick was nowhere to be found. The logic train had left without me. In the distance I could see the dumb passengers waving goodbye as I stood stunned in moron station. Chapter six became the impenetrable barrier between my desired proficiency and my thoroughly engrained ineptitude.
Failing to clear the “For Dummies” hurdle got me thinking about the power of perception. What if I had read the same book with a slightly different title? What if the words “For Geniuses ” had replaced the words “For Dummies”? How would I have felt about my inability to understand chapter six? How would this column be different? Huh, I can see it now. . .
“The other day I read a do-it-yourself book for geniuses. Guess what? I almost understood it. Well I guess I’m not a genius, but at least I’m no dummy.”
Perception and reality are two different things, although we frequently get the two confused. Just because I think I’m smart, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I am. By the way, my wife has been telling me this for years. In the same way, feelings often muddle our perception of what is true or real. For instance, just because you feel condemned, it doesn’t mean you stand condemned.
As a pastor I love it when I get the opportunity to shine a little reality on a muddled situation. When I find someone who truly feels unloved and condemned, I try my best to point towards the truth of the matter.
I know for certain that God has come not to condemn you, but to free you and show you his immeasurable grace and love. Your life is not hopeless, you might just have the wrong title. I’m confident God can give you a better perspective concerning your existence. Even if you’re a big dummy, just like me.