Every situation has the possibility for as many interpretations as there are people to experience it.
Four gospel writers tell the same events but from different angles. 200 people attend our church on Sunday and some leave mad, some leave inspired, some leave lethargic and apathetic. We watch a movie and get different reactions, read a book and remember different highlights, and recall family vacations with completely different memories.
And then of course there is that blasted dress. I have yet to see an explanation that satisfies me, but this one might be close. It’s just too weird, and I’m somewhere between being tired of seeing it and curious enough to keep wanting an answer. How can what I see be so different from what you see? One of us is crazy.
I’m driving to the airport yesterday morning and my daughter asks for my phone from the backseat. Seeing beauty in a sunrise isn’t something we had to teach her – she was born that way. I might only see a dirty van window in this picture if I don’t look carefully. Or maybe its looking too care-fully that ruins it.
It’s our perspective. We are a world full of individuals who see and hear and think and feel differently. Not wrongly, necessarily. Just differently.
Sometimes I’m in a group setting and I realize that everything I’m hearing or seeing is coming through my filter in a different way than everyone else. I see how it affects me, but do I realize how you are affected?
I think about how the woman with 4 small children is filtering what she hears; how the recently-divorced man interprets the situation; how the old man with cancer or the young woman with her boyfriend hears what’s happening.
Do I think from my perspective, only?
One Sunday during worship I pictured our congregation from above, all in corporate worship, and then from the ground level I saw us all as individuals. Such individuals and so many testimonies, mostly unknown to me. Every single individual in that building has a story and it colors how they see everything, how they worship, how they think about God and His faithfulness and His character.
What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” – A.W. Tozer
We can worship together as one yet remain so disparate in thought and perspective, never really knowing one another and maybe, missing pieces of who God actually is because of our narrowed vision. Maybe our knowledge of the Most Holy is limited in part because our relationships with people are cut short.
One of the marks of immaturity and a sure way to stop a relationship from growing is the inability to see things from anyone else’s point of view.
Perspective ought to be trained into us like table manners. We ought to have the mind of Christ that sees others first, others most. Our brooding and mooding and self-centered coddling of our own fragile feelings ought to be trained right out of us, and perspective should be in its place. It’s a gift we should look for and cultivate and I think it must always lead to empathy and compassion.
Who will train us?
It’s easy for me to put my foot down with my children and refuse to budge, but even when I’m right and my answer will not change, I still need to have perspective and remember those tantrums I used to throw on my own bed.
Oh I remember. Fists pounding and legs flailing and having the worst.life.ever. I remember how the things I desired and the yeses I required made life hard for me. And for my mom.
But I was a child and me-first was natural.
Remembering this can help my perspective. So can taking into account that, though my kids may have a great life, they still have things that cause them stress and disappoint them and I shouldn’t take that lightly.
I still think that I think about myself more than anyone else. More than I think about anyone else, but also more than anyone else thinks about me. Know what I mean? I spend the majority of my waking hours thinking about things that will affect me and how they will affect me and how I can reorder life so those things will affect me for the better.
I am supposed to be the most unselfish species on the planet. If I am a typical mom and most other mothers think about themselves as much as I think about myself, we’ve all been terribly misled. We might be doomed.
But maybe it’s just me.
Having someone else’s perspective does not necessarily mean I change my mind. It doesn’t mean a compromise of principles or truth or basic standards of justice. It only means that I can choose to see through someone else’s eyes, though imperfectly, and try to gain an understanding of them. I can put off my selfish me-only perspective and see for a minute that everyone in the situation may be affected differently.
As many-faceted as He is, I think I’ll see God more clearly by paying attention to how others see Him and remembering how He sees us.