Things aren’t always as they seem

Things aren’t always as they seem


Things aren’t always as they seem.

     Jim Robbins, musician and author


If you ever watch any of the home buyer/home improvement shows on TV there’s a reaction that’s very common in many of the shows.  Invariably, it doesn’t matter whether it’s a prospective home buyer for a new home or a homeowner looking at possible renovations to an existing home.  But at some point in the early consideration of a purchase or a renovation someone will express tremendous doubts about the potential for the home or the makeover to work for them. 

It might be that someone can’t get past a current paint color in a room.   It might be that someone can’t see how a space can change dramatically when an existing wall is suggested to come down.  It might be that when a never-considered before neighborhood is thrown into the mix someone can’t open their mind to considering it as a possibility. 

And nearly always on these shows, inevitably once someone can be convinced to trust that a certain house or renovation can really work for them, the previous doubts melt away when the end result is revealed.  In fact, what always happens is that the end result turns out to be far better and more wonderful than any of the doubters could possibly have imagined.       

In a world in which we like to see things as they are, it’s hard for us to picture things that we’re not able to see right in front of us.  We often lack the imagination, the vision, the belief, to see not just what is, but also what can be.  We cannot easily see beyond the surface to what lies more deeply beneath – the potential for something better, something more, something that we truly need.

We’ve both had recent conversations with people older than we are, people with more life experience, with more time to see the rhythms and circles of life played out.  In these conversations we’ve heard the same sentiment expressed repeatedly – that things will always work out.  That even though it’s nearly impossible when we’re going through times of difficulty, frustration, grief and pain to envision that things will eventually work out for us, in the end they will.  But our older, wiser, more experienced friends have seen that they can, that they do and that they will.  These friends are living lives of greater gratitude, joy and peace – and it’s obvious – because of what they have learned about how life can work out for all of us.  They understand, to their great benefit and contentment, that things aren’t always what they seem at first, on the surface, or ever.  They understand that there is always something more to be discovered, something more to be learned, something more to come, something more to behold. 

When I (Tom) and my wife were looking at moving into the home in which we currently live, I was like the people on the home buyer/renovation shows.  I couldn’t see beyond the paint on the walls, the stains on the carpet or the things that needed to be fixed.   I thought the place was somewhat of a dump and couldn’t envision how we could live there.  But my wife has an eye.  She can see beyond those surface things.  She said,

Trust me on this.  It’s a good price.  This place has a lot of potential.  

Her imagination enabled her to see beyond the paint and the dirt and the repairs to a very livable and comfortable home. 

When my (Michael’s) family and I were looking at our present house several years ago, our oldest two boys, in middle school at the time, wanted to reject the place because of a mural painted on the wall of the bedroom they planned to share.   The room had obviously been for a girl, for the mural was of a twirling female figure skater.  My sons were horrified at having their room be so feminine.  But when we convinced them that with some paint and the addition of a new “masculine” border around the room a big difference could be made, they agreed that they could accept living in that house.  They soon came to like their new room.

We live in a culture of doubt and negativity.  It’s an easier road, to see only what is wrong, what is lacking or only what is before us.  And so we too often dwell there.  It takes a lot more effort to believe that something could be better and that there can be more. 

But it’s a choice that we can make.  It’s a choice that starts with being grateful, for moving beyond the disappointments and the imperfections of the world and one another to see the goodness and love and possibilities of what lies within us and can happen through us.  It’s too easy to be resigned to the fact that what is immediately in front of us is all that there is.  It’s easier to wallow in our sadness and despair.  

But it takes having an imagination to see beyond the challenges of our present circumstances and what is right in front of us.  It takes a childlike wonder, a willingness to hope, a vision that sees beyond the surface.  When we can work at having that hope, at capturing that vision and at living in that wonder, we can begin to find greater joy and peace for all of our days.


Jim Robbins is a good friend of ours.  You can learn about his talent and work at .