A Little Perspective Goes a Long Way

I’m sitting in my friend’s living room while snow falls quickly outside. It’s really funny how my attitude towards snow days has changed. When I was in school, taking classes, I loved snow days because that meant I didn’t have to go to class. What a joy that was! No tests, no homework, nothing.

But now that I’m in the working world, it’s a little different. I get paid by the hour, so when I don’t work hours, I don’t get paid. And since I’m paying for a lot of things these days, not getting paid means not being able to pay for things. It’s funny what a little growing up will do for you.

I’ve had more than one conversation in the last few days about perspective and the importance of seeing things in light of everything else. I struggled a lot with that when I was younger, and I think part of that is simply being young and I didn’t know any better. After all, a shortened definition of having perspective is knowing better. It’s being able to take in everything around you, all the circumstances and factors that play into a situation or a person’s decisions and thinking rightly about it.

For instance, this past Sunday I was at lunch with a few friends and my girlfriend and I ordered fajitas. We got the beans, rice, lettuce, etc., but the main part of our meal didn’t come for a while. Our friends had gotten their food, but we hadn’t gotten ours yet. I was getting a little frustrated, but I was able to slow down and remind myself of a few things:

  1. It was a Sunday at lunchtime and the restaurant was pretty busy.
  2. Fajita meat and veggies is a lot more work to make than shredded lettuce and refried beans.
  3. Our server was not just serving us, but a few other tables around us.
  4. What’s the harm in waiting a few more minutes?

I did have to remind the server that we were missing our main course, but by the grace of God I was able to keep my frustration in check. It’s something God has definitely grown in me. But if only I had more of this perspective when I was younger! Probably the biggest difference would have been this: I wouldn’t have so harshly judged my high school classmates who didn’t come from a Christian home like mine. My self-righteousness was big in high school and into my first year at Elon. How would things have been different had I had this perspective:

  1. Not everyone had the same set of values and morals taught that I had in my home.
  2. Not everyone was probably as aware of their limitations and mistakes as I was.
  3. My self-righteousness and “Christian showing off” did not help convert anyone.
  4. People needed most to be understood by me, not understanding of me.

Honestly, I think it’s only now that I’ve gotten away from school that I’m gaining perspective, and I think it’s come most from understanding myself. Why do I do the things I do, think the way I think? How much did my upbringing/faith/music choices/etc. influence me? As I’ve grown to have perspective on myself, I’ve learned to have more perspective on others. Without perspective, I become quick to judge, quick to get frustrated.

And there are still many times when I forget perspective because it’s convenient. Perspective takes time and patience, things I have less and less of some days. It’s easier to just make a snap decision to think one way about something instead of considering all the variables. I feel this way about Christians deep into politics. I get frustrated because I don’t think it’s that big of a deal and we spend way too much time talking about it.

But then I think of those who are deep into it. There’s probably a few factors that have influenced why they’re that way. Perhaps they grew up in a household that emphasized politics. Perhaps they’re genuinely interested in the political system. Perhaps they see something about politics and its importance that I don’t quite understand. Do I still think it’s too big a deal? Yes, but exploring that is for another time. But having the perspective allows us to love others better.

Think about this: what if God didn’t have perspective on us? What if all He did was look at our disobedience and just forget us, get frustrated, condemn us to hell? But this is the perspective He has on us:

As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. (Psalm 103:13-14)

God saw that we were a people without hope because of our disobedience, and gave us Jesus so that we could have an opportunity at relationship with Him. Because God had perspective, eternally, He gave us the chance to be saved. How awesome is that?!?!? He shows compassion because He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust, remembers where we come from. After all, He was there when we rebelled.

How do we apply that? Why can’t I show the same compassion and love to others that God shows to me? I think it’s often because I lack the perspective to do so. As I’m learning, a little perspective goes a long way.