QUESTION: A Mirage is.... ANSWER: A) A Hotel in Las Vegas B) A phenomenon caused be the refraction of light rays. C) Something unreal that our mind thinks is real. D) All of the above. So, what did you say? The correct answer is D) all of the above. Now you are wondering if I am going to talk about all of these. Well, I have seen Las Vegas out the window of an airplane and that is as close to that city as I desire to get! So that leaves B and C, but before I get to that you may be wondering how this subject crossed my mind. Recently while driving down the highway on a warm sunny day, a voice from the back-seat asked why the road ahead looked "wet." You no doubt have seen this sight as well. The road appears as if it is covered with water and is shimmering in the sunlight, but as you get closer the "water" quickly evaporates. This is but one example of a mirage, and since I went to the trouble to formulate an explanation for my son, I thought I would share it with you as well.

A mirage is caused by light being refracted (bent). An easy illustration of refraction is to drop a pencil into a glass of water. The image of the pencil will appear bent. Refraction occurs as light passes through materials of different densities. Water is more dense than air, so as light passes from air to water the light rays are refracted and the pencil appears to be bent. Temperature changes in the air cause changes in air density. When sunlight passes through these different layers of air densities, it is bent and the degree of bending depends on the density of air. Higher temperatures lead to greater degrees of bending. Mirages are visible when sunlight passes through the different layers of air densities. So on a warm sunny day, the road from a distance may appear wet. Black road absorbs heat and becomes very hot. Air just above this road also becomes hot through conduction, but since air is a poor conductor, there is cooler air only a few feet above the ground. When sunlight passes through these layers of different air densities, blue light refracts up into our eyes and as a result, the road surface appears wet. Sometimes the "watery" surface also seems to shimmer. The rising and sinking air near the warm ground causes changes in air densities. When sunlight travels through these layers of air densities, its path also changes, resulting in the shimmering effect. With different conditions objects can appear to "float" in the air, or distant objects can appear very close or even upside down!

Since our senses can be so fooled, a mirage has come to have the metaphorical meaning of anything that appears real but isn't. Just as light rays can be bent to give us a false view of physical reality, our thoughts can be bent by untruth so that we have a false view of spiritual reality. Here are a couple examples of "spiritual mirages."

Mirage #1 "If you are making it, you have it made." Our world tends to measure success by the economic status of an individual. Jesus asked in Matthew 16:26, "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" The only way to "have it made" is to have one's soul secure in Christ through faith in Him. 

Mirage #2 "The way up, is the way up." We are also led to believe that the way to get ahead is to advance ourselves and have others do our will; instead Jesus warned in Matthew 23:12 that "whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." The real way to move up in God's sight is to be a humble servant of God and others around us.

These are just two of many potential mirages you may experience. The way to overcome them is by having a regular reality check from God's Word. You can get a "reality check"  in church this Sunday and privately if you will open God's word and learn of its truths. If you do, you will no longer be a victim of life's mirages.

Jesse Waggoner
Pastor of Adult Ministries
© 2002 Bible Center Church

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