When Val and I were first married, we visited a tropical fish shop. As I went from tank to tank looking at the different kinds of fish, there happened to be an octagon tank in the middle of the store. It was a salt water tank, and in it were seahorse.
Up to that moment in my life, I thought seahorse were a thing of legend‚ mythical creatures, like the winged horse, Pegasus, or the unicorn. It is hard to put into words the confusion and amazement I felt. At first, I supposed they were plastic decorations. Then I looked for movement of any kind. The fins on the side of their bodies seemed to be moving, but then again, I was so confused, I thought I was seeing things.
I asked Val to look. I asked her if the fins looked like they were moving. She said, “yes.” I was so confused and embarrassed of exposing my ignorance, and afraid to ask her if seahorse were real. Apparently, the existence of seahorse posed no problem for her, but then again, I thought she might be confused about their existence as well. The real question I wanted to ask was, “Are seahorse real or mythical creatures?” So, I asked the owner if the seahorse in the tank were real. I had to know. He confirmed they were real, alive. At first I thought he was having fun with me, but eventually I came to see the little creatures in the tank as alive—real.
I have been fascinated by the fact that seahorse are real creatures ever since, and have not yet lost my sense of wonder when I see them in a fish shop.
A number of years ago I happened to be teaching the high school class during VBS. I made mention of a number of people like Daniel Boone, Wyatt Earp, Davey Crockett, and such like. One of the young ladies in our class, with wide eyes, raised her hand a bewildering look on her face. She asked, “Are those people real? Are they real people who lived in the past?” I informed her that they were real historical people. She thought they were just fictional literary characters, the figment of the imagination of writers in Hollywood.
This young lady and I were disillusioned. Being disillusioned is not necessarily a bad thing. Break the word down, dis-illusioned. Prior to being disillusioned, we lived under some illusion. An illusion is a false impression of reality—the sort of things magicians do. I would say that being disillusioned is a good thing in both of our cases. In the fish shop, my false impression of seahorse was corrected. At VBS, the young lady learned that some heroic personalities were real people.
As far back as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the sometimes blurred lines of reality. I have been making a list of movies and real life experiences that illustrate such. Perhaps some of you have seen the movie “Fairy Tale: A True Story.” In 1917, two children took some photographs which some took to be the first scientific evidence of the existence of fairies. There is a lot to this story that goes beyond the movie, but the movie captures this limbo like experience—that feeling produced when we find ourselves in-between reality and fantasy.
Woody Allen plays with this blurring of reality in the 2014 movie, “Magic in the Moonlight.” Colin Firth plays the part of a professional magician who is lured into a situation in which Emma Stone plays a convincing psychic he is called in to expose.
Being disillusioned is not pleasant, initially. It is disorienting, and always an occasion for reassessment. But it is often beneficial—unless it leads to cynicism.
The apostle Paul was disillusioned on the road to Damascus. He was on his way to arrest and imprison Christians—those pesky disciples of Jesus, —but he met the risen Lord face to face disillusioning his former impression of Christians and the Christ. Initially, it was a painful experience, evidenced by Paul’s fasting and temporary blindness. But who would ever argue that it was a bad thing?
There is a bad kind of disillusionment. Take Eve in Genesis 3 for example. Eve knew the Lord. She knew His will well enough to repeat it to the serpent. The serpent beguiled Eve and she became disillusioned with God. The Devil convinced her that the Lord must be withholding some good thing from her. The serpent convinced her that she could be like God determining for herself what is good and evil. This is a bad kind of disillusionment.
Being disillusioned of a false belief can be enlightening. Being disillusioned of the truth and reality can lead to cynicism, and that is a sickness. (See Andrew Byers, Faith Without Illusions.)
Have you ever been disillusioned?