Seeing, by Carrie Warner
The truth is, in any given circumstance, the way I see things has a profoundly huge effect on the way I live. In fact, I cannot think of anything more life-altering than changing the way I see things. Some examples…
Situation one - the house is messy. How do I choose to see that? Do I see it as an overwhelming fact that makes me feel like I am a failure for allowing it to get this way? Or do I see the mess and choose to thank God for the evidences of life that it shows me - like realizing that dirty dishes mean that we have food to eat and people to share it with. Like remembering that toys on the floor remind me that I have been given three healthy and happy (mostly) :) children who are learning new things every day. I could also choose to see the messy house as a challenge, an opportunity to prove myself and overcome the mess by my own strength, thereby building up my own self-confidence by working hard. (Although there may be benefits to this view, it can also lead to a major crash, when perhaps I am not able to accomplish as much as I hoped to or do so as quickly as I thought I could.) Or, what if I see the messy house as a chance to ask God for strength and help, relying on His power to be made perfect in my weakness and trusting that He will enable to do what I need to do? All of this is part of one very common everyday situation, but I’m afraid that my view of this situation is very rarely one that glorifies God or helps me (or those around me) very much.
Situation two - I have a lot to do. (Actually when is this NOT true?) Always, I am facing a to-do list, whether on paper or in my mind. How do I view this never-ending list? How do I see the interruptions that keep me from accomplishing things on this list? Recently I heard about someone who makes it a habit each morning to thank God for the interruptions that will come about in the day. While it can still be difficult when these interruptions come, there is something powerful about having prayed over them ahead of time and realizing that God knew they were coming, and even has a purpose for them. So when they come, rather than seeing them as roadblocks to doing what God wants me to do, they become stepping stones that God has put in my day, opportunities to draw near to Him and glorify Him through them. I was challenged by this thought, because I know that in any given day, I find myself frustrated when things aren’t happening the way I thought they would (or should). How much better off would my worldview be if I let go of my own thoughts and expectations about how a day will go and trusted God more, even with the things that seem like they are slowing me down or getting in my way?
Wouldn’t my life be completely different if I could choose to see things differently in every situation? If somehow my eyes saw the good rather than feeling overwhelmed or burdened by the not-so-good? This realization that the way I see things makes such a huge difference in my life leads me to ask one very important question - how do I change the way I see things? Where are my cool, blue, magic sunglasses???
So now reality hits….
Cool, blue, magic sunglasses do not actually exist.
And from my experience, seeing the good in every day is a whole lot harder than simply making a choice to see the good in every day. While I do not believe it is impossible to attain this goal of seeing things differently, I do believe as I reach for this goal, I must realize that I will need a lot of help. I must remember that even when I mess up or lose my sight again, God gives grace and enables me to put my “sunglasses” back on to reclaim the vision I need.
How do I get the vision? Here are the best ways I know of, based on my life experience and what I believe God teaches us in the Bible:
Spend time with God.
God is the source of everything good, and spending time in His presence changes me. I see this truth in the following passages of Scripture:
2 Corinthians 3:18 -- And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Psalm 16:11 -- You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.
Psalm 84:10 -- Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere; I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
Sometimes my struggle with this concept is that I feel like I need my time with to happen when and how I want it to happen. On the one hand, I realize it is important to make time with God a priority. But as a mom of young kids, so much of a typical day seems to be out of my control. What do I do if I can’t sit still in God’s presence first thing in the morning because one of my kids woke up early crying? Does that mean my day is a goner because I didn’t have that time? Or could it be that this is another case in which I need to surrender to God and trust that He will provide the time with Him that I need when I need it? And what if I think to myself, I just need the kids to all nap at the same time so I can be still with God. But then they don’t. Again, is it a lost cause? I pray that it’s not. I wonder if sometimes I am more concerned than God is about having my time with Him be just when and how I think it needs to be. Maybe He knows when I need to be still with Him and I just need to ask Him to guide me and open my eyes to see and recognize the opportunities to spend time with Him throughout each day. Yes, I also want to make time to have some dedicated personal retreats and times to really get alone with God. But I want to learn to embrace the moments in daily living when I can spend time with God as I go through my daily routine.
Spending time with God is of course very connected to prayer. But in this case, I am thinking of praying for something specific. In the book of James, we read, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” (James 4:2b) What if a big part of learning to see things differently is praying that God will help me to see things differently? I wonder what would happen if I began to regularly ask God, please give me new eyes. Help me to see the good in each day, in each circumstance. James 5:16b: “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”
So many Scriptures talk about thankfulness. “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) “In everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6b) I have heard it said before that a person cannot fully engage two emotions at one time. So if I am feeling overwhelmed by a negative emotion or oppressing circumstance, one way out of that is to begin giving thanks. When I give thanks, it has a way of changing my perspective. The challenge is, in a situation where I am not seeing the good, the last thing I feel like doing is giving thanks. But if I could somehow remember that giving thanks is actually a path that leads to peace and joy no matter what, perhaps I wouldn’t spend so much time getting stuck in my own misery. I can remember a few times when I was feeling exhausted while taking care of my three-year-old, and I just began to say out loud, “thank You Lord for ________” (whatever I could think of). Thank You Lord for our home. Thank You Lord for the sunshine outside. Thank You Lord for our family. Thank You Lord for words we can say. I remember being amazed at how such a simple thing did seem to renew my spirit and helped to create a sense of peace. Oh that I would grow in my ability to give thanks in ALL circumstances!
Empty the bad, fill up with the good.
I think people are a little bit like buckets. As a bucket gets filled to overflowing, whatever is in there the most comes out. Most times I don’t even think I am aware of what I am filled up with until I start to see what is coming out (or what wants to come out). Then I kind of panic because I don’t like what I’m seeing and sometimes in stressing out about that, I end up filling up with panic, which also doesn’t come out as anything very pretty. I have two thoughts about how to deal with this. One - I need to pour out my heart to God, often. He is the only One who truly knows and understands the good and the bad inside me, and as I confess my sins to Him and talk (or journal) honestly about my struggles, He can lead me to the truth and change me. I can’t think of a better way to “empty out the trash” than to go to Him with it. Two - I need to fill my heart with things that will bring life. I know that for me, listening to music that is centered on God and making music to God myself are really good ways to fill up my heart. Deep conversations with people who share my love for God also fill me up. Reading books, doing something creative, even just being outside or getting some kind of exercise… all of these things are life-giving for me. I hope and pray that I can continue to learn about ways to fill up with good. Because I’m afraid if I just go by default, the bad will just pile up and take over.
So today, as I continue on this journey of learning how to see things in a whole new way, I wonder if anyone reading this will take some steps along with me. Here is what I want to do:
- spend time with God, in dedicated times alone and in moments that arise during the day
- pray for eyes to see the good in each day, each situation
- give thanks, in my heart and out loud, as often as I can
- confess my sins to God and be real with Him about my struggles
- engage in activities that fill me up with good