We are just a part, not the whole: Some thoughts on perspective
I had a dream last night. The details are fuzzy but it took place at a book launch. I was listening in to two women's perspectives on the food being laid on. One wanted to make more sandwiches. The other said it would be a complete waste of food and there was no point cutting any more loaves. The first thought that the food could go to someone who needs it if it wasn't all eaten at the launch. While she was frustrated inside, she relented and left the loaves alone...
A little later I was lying awake listening to my husband snoring. For me, after we'd both woken up at 5am, the sound of his snoring was intensely irritating. However, I didn't dare move him to try and stop the snoring as I knew that he'd had night after night of waking around 4 or 5am and then not being able to get back to sleep. So, although I was desperate for more sleep, and everything in me was fighting the urge, I was trying to see things from my husband's perspective and leave him in peace.
The Easter holiday was another test of me seeing things from others' perspectives. It was also a time to try and teach my children to do the same. After a fraught last (half-term) holiday, in which I juggled too much work with trying to spend time with the kids, I had made the decision not to work as much in the Easter holiday.
Even so, in the few hours I snatched here and there, my son was always next to me saying, 'What can I do?' I tried to show both him and my daughter that they are blessed with lovely toys and have the opportunity to play with them and amuse themselves on the days we weren't out and about or seeing friends.
My children seemed to have a sixth sense whenever I went to my computer to sit down and work. Even though they had been happily playing without me in the room, inevitably what they were doing suddenly stopped being fun and they appeared by my side! So I was trying to teach them some give and take, explaining that I was only taking the odd hour on certain days to work – although I normally work the whole time they are at school.
For the majority of the holiday time we enjoyed the fantastic weather and got out and about with friends on fantastic walks and trips. But I also had to check myself and see things from their perspective. They wanted to spend time with me, and being greeted by a stressed mummy whenever they entered my office couldn't have been fun.
Thinking about this reminded me of the film A Song for Marion, which I watched last week (spoiler alert – I do tell you a lot of the story in the next couple of paragraphs!). It is a heart-warming, but also heart-breaking, story of an older woman dying of cancer. Played by Vanessa Redgrave, Marion finds great outlet in a choir full of other older members of her community. They have great fun, and even enter a competition. Her husband, however, finds the whole thing ridiculous, and struggles with the impact it could be having on her health. He takes her to the choir practices, but stands outside with a long, miserable face.
Vanessa's character is trying to enjoy her last moments, have fun doing what she loves, while her husband is no doubt trying to protect her and keep her close. But, once she has gone, her husband takes some tentative steps towards singing himself, and eventually finds the joy in it and joins the group she was a part of previously. Along the way he also learns how to relate to his son again, whose relationship with him had been strained at best.
It is so important that we each learn to view life, circumstances, daily situations etc from different perspectives. Otherwise we can get so closed, so insular, within our 'me-centred' world. The best perspective we can look to see things from, of course, is God's.
As Krish Kandiah points out, in his new book 'Paradoxology', "We are like caterpillars crawling across a cinema screen, so close to the picture that we cannot come close to seeing the design that God is working out on the grand canvas of history." Only He sees the whole – we are focused on such a tiny bit of it and too often feel that our 'part' is the most important.
This Easter time has given us a great reminder of what the cross means for us, not just during the Easter holidays but each and every day of every year. Jesus won us freedom but also grace. We can enjoy those things for ourselves – but how often do we extend them to others?
As part of the leadership team at church, I have to constantly remind myself that people have different perspectives to me. I may see something very clearly, but another sees it in a totally different way. I have to extend grace towards that person – even in the times when I just want to gruffly point out 'the truth' to them! I have to be honest, my husband is much better at that than me – so he helps me by gently reminding me!
But let me turn things around and ask you: How often do you get riled by how another person responds to you, or simply how they do things? How about praying that God would help you see the bigger picture? To see when it really doesn't matter (and is just down to personality differences) and when it could be a pointer to something deeper. Perhaps that person is being particularly short with you one day because they are dealing with a really difficult issue at home. Showing them patience and gentleness could open up an opportunity for you to share God's love with them.
Let's get totally honest for a moment. There are times that we think we are right when we really aren't. We all suffer from 'pride-itis' to a lesser or greater degree, and it can be hard to swallow when someone points out our errors. But seeing that wider perspective, and allowing those close to us to speak into our lives, helps us all to mature and become better people – more Christ-like.
I know so often my mind is filled with my own perspective on issues, people, events etc – but I so yearn for it to be more and more the case that I respond in a Christ-like manner, having taken the time to ask for His perspective...