“In this treacherous world nothing is a truth or lie. Everything depends on the color of the crystal through which one sees it.” -Pedro Calderon de la Becca
“And those who were dancing, were thought to be crazy, by those who could not hear the music.” -Friedrich Nietzsche
As part of my Lenten discipline this year, I reread the Old Testament. I tried to not focus on any individual passages, but instead I tried to widen my viewpoint and adjust my perspective and experience the reading as a story unfolding in front of me. Today’s reflection is about the danger of narrowing our perspective to the point that we miss the big picture of God’s plan. Just as easily we could reflect on the dangers of missing the details that are necessary and important while we are busy looking at the big picture. Life is truly about finding the balance between these ways of seeing and today, I’d like for us to consider the big picture of God’s plan and not stumble over the details. For some of us the big picture comes naturally and we tend to struggle with the details and for others the details are the easy part and we miss the big picture completely.
I have always found it fascinating to discuss a television series that has powerful and diverse characters with others who are watching also. It has fascinated me that we each choose a character, consciously or unconsciously that we begin to relate to and then watch and experience the story from that character’s point of view. Usually in books and movies the director or author determines our point of view. But in a television series with multiple strong and ongoing characters we begin to follow the storyline from the character we strongly relate to and see the story unfold from their point of view. Then we narrow down our perspective and experience the story as their story and begin to empathize and sympathize with their wants and needs. One of the most powerful examples of this phenomenon that I have experienced in the last few years is the series that concluded last year, “Sons of Anarchy”. When I would discuss this series with others, it seemed if you were either a “Jemma” sympathizer or a “Jax” sympathizer. I believe if you went into the series because you loved Katy Segal and her body of work, you probably got hooked into the “Jemma” camp and if not you by default became a “Jax” camp sympathizer. If you were following this series from the “Jemma” camp, you could relate to her motivations and her fierce protectiveness of the family and club. While the point of the series, in my opinion, was about family and relationships, your sympathies were split into one of two camps. When you had chosen a camp whether that was consciously or unconsciously you began to experience the story and saw Jemma as an antagonist and her constant interference was unacceptable and troublesome. But if you were able to shift your perspective and see Jemma for what she was, a mother and a fierce protector of the family and the motorcycle club, you could forgive her intrusion and damaging actions. And ultimately you could truly grieve her inevitable death at Jax’s hand. When you were firmly in the “Jax” camp, Jemma was a conniving and controlling pain that ruined and destroyed Jax’s life and work. But ultimately looking at the series as a whole, it was a family and a club that loved and lived and died by their own rules.
In relating this to our spiritual lives, I think we naturally see the world from our own narrow perspective. We pray for what we want and need and forget to wait to see if this is God’s plan for our lives and God in his wisdom does not always answer those prayers as we had hoped but eventually we become aware of the greater perspective of God’s plan. We read the bible searching out scriptures to reinforce our viewpoint, conduct our affairs with family, friends, church and work from this narrow point of view. We look at scripture and society to promote and reinforce our views, beliefs and sometimes miss the broader view of God’s plan while we are busy making the world conform to our plan. We forget to follow Jesus and strike our own path through the darkness. This keeps us from being able to consider other points of view, other’s needs and motivations, and what God’s plan is for our lives. Our hyper-focus on making life happen from our narrowed perspective is detrimental to following and allowing God’s plan to be evident in our lives. When we cannot or will not consider another point of view or adjust our perspective, we miss the opportunity to connect and understand others and their path. We miss the blessing of knowing others fully and understanding their truth. Compassion becomes difficult when we are caught up in our own designed world with our own feelings, needs and wants and we miss being of service to others. God’s plan for our lives and relationships can be completely missed while we are busy making plans and controlling our own destinies.
We need to be mindful of the flow of life and God’s plan so that we can be wholly present in the moment and be open to correction of our direction if we are off course. We need to tend to the details while being mindful of the larger picture of God’s design.
It is not necessary or even possible to truly know what God has planned for our lives. We have been reminded in I Corinthians 13 that we “know only in part” and “for now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face”. It really isn’t necessary to know everything or even possible, but we can be mindful of opening our hearts and minds to searching for God’s perspective in our lives. We have to have faith that God has a bigger plan for our lives and while we are responsible for doing the work we should not get so hyper-focused on the details that we are not willing to adjust our sails and change direction when necessary to be in obedience to God’s plan.
When our focus and belief’s are so narrow we can limit the revelation of Holy Spirit for our next step or we can even use this narrow viewpoint to exclude or judge others. When we read scripture for the sole purpose of proving our point of view, or a singular point of view we miss the perspective the whole story. We forget to take into account the context of the passage or the complete story. While this type of study may be necessary for specific studies or applications it is still a prudent practice to look at the whole chapter at the least if not the entire book. It can actually show us God’s plan is much broader and more inclusive than we may want to believe. It can shed new light on certain passages in the bible that we may have used to judge others and show us a different revelation of some classically misinterpreted passages. If we just use the bible to search for topics or answers that we want or need to defend our point of view, we can cloud the true meaning of the scriptures. We could take a few verses here or there and build our foundation only to discover too late that we have been building on sand and not rock. I am not saying that there are not times it is appropriate to search the scriptures to calm or fortify our spirit, I am just suggesting that we need to adjust our perspectives occasionally so that we are clear on what the bigger picture is behind those verses. This way we can be assured that we are not using a handful of verses to justify our behaviors or our own narrow point of view.
In our Christian faith, there seem to be very few absolutes. When we are asking God for a vision to see His plan we will not become caught up in details but we will be using those details to live into the commandment and one absolute that Jesus told us was the fulfillment of all the law. Matt. 22:34-40
In conclusion, I wonder if when Jesus said, “narrow is the way” and mentions how hard it will be for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven, was just saying that when we narrow our focus to only getting what we want and not considering the whole we will miss the blessing of living fully into His commandment of “loving our neighbors as ourselves”?
©Amber E Keithley 2015