Things Are Not Always As They Seem

There is an old story that I remember went something like this: Two angels were walking upon the earth in the garb of human beings, one was an elder angel and the other a young angel who was traveling and learning from the elder.  

They had walked a long way and were tired as evening was approaching.  They came to a large, wealthy looking, well-manicured home with several large outbuildings. They knocked on the door and explained they were travelers who were hungry and tired and asked if they could please have lodging and food for the night. The grumpy man who answered the door said that he had no room for them and nothing to spare, but that they could spend the night in his barn and eat the slop with the pigs.  So, they bedded down in the barn as best they could on some unsoiled hay and ate the filth in the pig trough. It was a thoroughly miserable night.  They noticed as they lay down to sleep that there was a small hole in the wall behind them in one corner of the stable.    

In the morning, when the younger angel awoke, he discovered that the elder one had patched the hole in the wall. They set out on the road again, still hungry, and now sore.  The younger angel said, “I do not understand – he obviously could have fed us decent food and let us stay in comfort, but he was so miserly he did not, and yet you fixed his wall for him! Why…??”

The elder angel answered, “Things are not always as they seem!”, and then fell silent.  

That night, after another long day’s journey, they came upon a poor, dilapidated farm house and noticed one spindly cow in the small field nearby. The farmer and his wife both greeted them at the door. Hearing their tale, the elderly couple who lived there welcomed them into their home, saying, “We do not have much, but you may sleep in our bed tonight, and we will sleep on the floor. And you can share dinner with us, such as it is – a loaf of bread, some cheese, and milk from our cow.  We barely get by selling her milk in the village. I am sorry we cannot offer you more.”  The two angels expressed their gratitude for the couple’s kindness and slept well that night after dinner.  

They awoke in the morning to the sound of the woman crying. They went to the kitchen to find the man comforting his sobbing wife at the table. The younger angel asked them what had happened. The man answered sadly, “In the middle of the night our cow died.”  The elder angel said a brief prayer and some words of comfort before the two angels took their leave and were on the road again.

The younger angel said: “I do not understand. This couple had so little and yet were so generous to us, and you did nothing to help them! You even allowed their cow to die!  Why?”   The elder angers answered, “Things are not always as they seem”, and continued walking.

After several hours the young one spoke up again, distraught. “No, this is not right! It should not be this way. The grumpy wealthy man offers us nothing, and you fix the hole in his wall.  The kindly couple opened their hearts and home to us, and you did nothing to help them at all! Why? I need to understand. And please do not just say that things are not always as they seem!”

The elder angel stopped walking and looked at his young companion. With a sigh he explained, “While you slept in the straw in the barn, I explored what was behind the hole in the wall. It was a vast collection of gold and money and jewels – where the wealthy man hid his treasures.  So I did not fix the wall, as it appeared to you; I sealed it so he can never access it again. 

“And in the case of the elderly couple, I awoke to find the Angel of Death in the house in the middle of the night and asked him why he was here. He pointed to the farmer’s wife as she lay sleeping, and told me he had come for her. I stopped him and said, ‘Take the cow instead.’ ”  

The younger angel said, “So he still has his wife.”  The old angel smiled, “You see, things are not always as they seem.  He will get another cow.”

In my life, in yours, things are not always as they seem. What looks one way often turns out another, and there are hidden blessings going on all around us.  All we need are the eyes to see…and it is the light of love within our hearts that makes that vision possible.


Written by Rev Steven McAffee

With questions and for counselling contact Rev Steven at

Did You Know?

Photo by Mads Schmidt Rasmussen on Unsplash

Did you know that Jesus – whose Hebrew name was Yeshua – never started Christianity? It developed years after his death, primarily built around the theological concepts and teaching of Paul, whom as far as we know historically, never met Yeshua?  And those teachings were often at odds with what Yeshua and his apostles did teach?

Not only did Jesus not start a new religion, he never even started his own synagogue (a local center for worship, study, prayer, and community gatherings in that era).  He worked within the religion and culture into which he was born.  And in a time before the advent of modern technology, with no internet, no media, no mass marketing, no public transportation, he and his small group of devotees transformed the world.

While he did speak in public arenas from time to time – such as at local synagogues, on the steps of the Temple, and in the marketplace, most of his teaching was done in private.  Where?  In homes.   He and his friends and students would gather in homes to listen to his teachings, to share meals, to learn his “way.”  The innermost teachings about the Path were given in these settings.  To the public he spoke in parables – meaning he basically told inspirational stories that would transform their way of looking at things. To his disciples, in these private gatherings, he revealed the mysteries of God: 

“And He said, “To you it has been granted to know the  mysteries of  the kingdom of God, but to the rest they are told in parables…”  (Luke 8:10)

This is not just a history lesson. I share it to point out that what he accomplished, he accomplished by working on a small local level with the means he had at hand and spread the word through sharing in homes and private venues – not through the means of wealth or mass communications.  Today, though we are blessed with the technology to stay in touch over long distances, our opportunity is the same.  We can connect with one another in our homes in small gatherings (even virtually) – listen to the teachings, share our experiences, and serve God one soul at a time, one life at a time.  No matter how limited your resources may appear to be, you can learn and live and support the work of the Lord right where you are.  And while it may not seem like much, neither did a handful of Jewish fisherman and village women two thousand years ago.  And look what happened.  You are in good company. 


Written by Rev Steven McAffee

Contact Rev Steven at

Photo by Arturo Rey on Unsplash