Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The importance of perspective

It is of utmost importance that we seek to live our lives from the proper perspective. Common sense tells us this every day, such as going to work. Many people dislike their jobs but plow through the days and weeks knowing that the paycheck makes it all worth it (mostly, anyway), because it provides basic needs. If we reacted to each moment, it would produce chaos and ultimately dysfunction. In keeping with this analogy, think of it this way: many people get paid once or twice per month. Without that perspective, we would be going to work expecting to get paid each day only to go home with nothing but an empty lunch sack. "Why am I working this job if it doesn't pay me for my work?" we might ask ourselves. And if we acted on that, we might quit and find another job.

Or consider relationships. If my relationship isn't giving me the happiness and satisfaction I desire now, then I might as well get out and find another one that does, right? Sounds familiar...

The problem with this perspective is that it never provides accurate direction for our lives because it's based on such a limited foresight; it's reactive rather than proactive (see the figure above I made to illustrate this) because we can only see what's in front of us, whereas God sees all (such as Genesis 3:15, Psalm 139, Revelation 22:13).

The Christian faith is similar. If we live our lives from our own me-centered, finite perspective, we are most surely going to be reactive to the events in our lives (Image Source). We will operate from the only instruction manual we've got (and that we trust) - ourselves and our own experiences.

But if we live our lives from a different perspective - one that provides more clarity, direction, and is not biased towards me - we can take into consideration all of the factors and make wiser, more informed decisions. Have you known anyone like that? It seems like in the midst of a storm they're as calm as a sunny day at the beach. It's refreshing, really. And there's something about it that is appealing to us, like they know something we don't.

In the sermon on Sunday, our church's pastor talked about assessing himself as a financial giver. He rated himself pretty favorably, as I'm sure many of us would (I know I would). But then he asked himself, "Am I the best person to be judging myself?" He realized that it's easy for us to come up with lies to tell ourselves, and that we above everyone else believe our own lies the most.

To live a "Trutheran" Christian life, we must swallow our pride and let God tell us how to live our lives (2 Chronicles 7:14). We may not always like the answers we get (Matthew 19:16-22), but we cannot continue to live the way we do and expect to be close to God. Furthermore, we cannot live short-term focused lives because all it does is serve ourselves in the moment rather serving God and His will, His Kingdom, and His plans for this earth (Image Source).


Matt Guerino said...

The whole expectation-of-daily-pay thing is a great analogy of perspective! I like it: simple and clear. May I use that sometime?

Ryan Hofer said...

At the same time, I can't imagine being happy in a job which only provided me a paycheck at the end of the month. I like immediately enjoying what I am doing, which can cause a loss of the sense of time, in which I'm not really worried about fulfilling some sort of master plan. Could you follow this post up with some more explanation of how you, Aaron, gain knowledge of God's Infinite Perspective?

Aaron said...

@Matt: Absolutely!

@Ryan: I totally agree. It's good to have balance so that we're not just drudgingly living life. That's definitely not how God intended it to be; He created this world for us to enjoy and as a reflection of Him and His creativity.

To answer your question, I've had to replace the map/vision/goals (worldview) of my life that I've had or that have been impressed upon me by the world with a different one. I'm definitely not there and probably will never have "arrived" until I enter the gates of Heaven, but I'm working daily to become more saturated with God's story of the world and His eternal purpose for us. With that as my map, vision, goals, compass, worldview, I live a fundamentally different life. The events that occur take place not in relation to me but to God; I filter them through His perspective in order to determine their meaning and purpose.

Okay that sounds great, but what does it mean, right? Here's an example: I recently quit my "stable" job to be 100% self-employed, doing what I enjoy most. The rewards are greater, but so are the risks. I thought I was following God's direction but when the finances started getting tighter and the outlook was stormy, I started worrying about the decision to quit and wondered how this would work out.

Without God's perspective, I would probably have taken control of the situation and tried to "make things happen." Instead, I've seen this as God's way of using circumstances to grow me to become more dependent upon Him alone, to be satisfied with Him alone, and to trust in His wisdom and provision in my life. These character traits are more important to God than whether I have enough money to live a comfortable life, and when I make them important to me my perspective shifts. Yes, there are things I can do (and that God wants me to do) to grow my business, but the reason I do them has changed: not to ease my own anxiety or to live more comfortably, but out of joy for the gifts and opportunities God has given me to share with others.

So that's the long answer. It's simple in theory but very difficult in practice. Does that help or at least answer your question? (BTW, thanks for asking! It was really a great experience for me to think about it more thoroughly and flush it out!)

Amy Guerino said...

I've always respected and valued your clear thinking when we did the task team. It comes through here in your post on perspective.

You said, "if we live our lives from a different perspective - one that provides more clarity, direction, and is not biased towards me - we can take into consideration all of the factors and make wiser, more informed decisions." Those of us that understand our little story fits into His bigger story will endeavor to reach for God's perspective.

I'm reading a wonderful book called Mere Humanity by Donald T. Williams. He is taking the writings of G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien to show how the worldviews of naturalism and postmodernism undermine the nature of mankind. We were made in the image of God to reflect him as a Creator. We gravitate to want a bigger perspective because as image bearers we are made for eternity. And yet we live in a time bound, cursed place.

Williams quotes Chesterton, "'God had written not so much a poem, but rather a play; a play he had planned as perfect, but which has necessarily been left to human actors and stage managers who have since made rather a mess of it.' But the stories we make as we strut and fret our hour upon that stage still speak of our longing for restoration because we were made in the image of the Maker who is Savior and Redeemer as well."

I don't know if I explained very well how my reading relates to your post but it is my attempt to explain that kind of person who is calm in the midst of a storm. As I strive to be that individual I need to understand the God who made me to be like him. These present trials are a part of the little story I am called to live in the midst of the larger story that He is redeeming.

Thanks for your encouragement on my blog. You and Melissa (as well as your charming boys) are valued and loved by us. As you engage your mind and heart around the deep truths of God's Word we can see life change. Keep seeking that bigger perspective...it shows!

Aaron said...

Thanks, Amy. Clear thinking, though, can sometimes become OCD! :-D

I love your response. I especially like what you said about wanting that bigger perspective though we live in a time-bound place. Your explanation is right on - a better one than mine! Understanding God is absolutely critical, and at the same time so rewarding (when we actually remember or take the time to do so). I'm interested in reading that book you mentioned; my small group is taking a summer break of sorts, so I might just want to read Mere Humanity while I have the chance! :-)

Thank YOU for YOUR encouragement on your blog, too, Amy! Your commitment to your faith in God spurs me on more than you know.

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