He wakes up to face the day. In the first five minutes, the enveloping serenity dies to the claws of everything that clutters life in his mind. The noise comes, and the chaos grows deep, while the heart’s attitude seems to change like the weather. Has anyone changed? Have circumstances grown worse? Does it matter? It’s all about perspective.
Every situation is an opportunity to either react or not react. Perspective is the driving force which fuels the attitude of every reaction. And so it begins—our perspective or outlook on life determines who we are, what we believe and who we will become.
The late Irving Berlin, songwriter and co-founder of ASCAP, said, "Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it." It’s the glass empty, glass full mentality on life. What is your perspective on the amount of time afforded throughout life?
Being human, it’s almost natural to have a dismal outlook. "My job stinks. I wish I had a new car. Why are we living in this place? Everyone else is having more fun." We look in the mirror and think, There has to be more to life than what is here. This is the reason why fairy tales are so popular. People are looking for a way—any way—to escape.
While these comments may hit home, they are nothing but a recipe for disaster when they govern one’s life. Being negative directly affects one’s attitude in all aspects. This isn’t to say we should hide behind a facade of happiness and plaster a smile on our face singing songs all day long. It’s important to be honest with yourself. It’s all part of having the right perspective.
For example, the clang of garbage cans and loud gongs smashing each other would send most people running away, but not Luke Cresswell and Steve McNicholas. They heard a beautiful orchestra and saw an awesome opportunity. Cresswell and McNicholas, the founders of the Broadway show Stomp, have captivated the masses and earned millions with their unusual perspective.
Some unlikely authors from the Old Testament altered entire cultures by changing their perspective on life. Nehemiah, a staple from the Old Testament, set the example by changing his occupations and using construction to reach the people of the land. Nehemiah, cupbearer to the King of Persia, was in a position of little to no authority but had big dreams and a big God to back him.
As a personal waiter to the king, one day Nehemiah delivered a beverage to the king and was given the most unusual opportunity. During their encounter, Nehemiah asked the king to allow him time off work to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. After being granted the favor, Nehemiah asked the king to provide men and supplies for this task. The king signed off on the project, and within a year, the wall was completed in record time. The wall served as a symbol to the town and strengthened the nation of Israel, while opening doors for Nehemiah to share God’s truth.
Others in town saw a heap of rubble when they looked at the crumbling wall, but Nehemiah saw a potentially powerful safeguard for the city. Nehemiah had a healthy perspective on life and wasn’t afraid to chime in on the opportunity to request a favor from the king.
Having the right perspective doesn’t always promise immediate results or a positive outcome. Another Old Testament favorite, Amos, lived in a time when Israel flourished in both immorality and wealth. As a prophet, Amos had the job of speaking God’s truths to his generation. He stood up against the immorality of his time with abandonment to the truth. This task could not be accomplished if Amos blinded himself to what was going on around him. His purpose in life was exposing the immorality of Israel and showing them a way out. His message wasn’t always received under hospitable circumstances. As a direct result of speaking the truth, Amos lived in danger from the authorities.
How can these stories apply to our everyday lives in affluent North America in 2003? Broken down, every conversation is a chance to either listen or respond. Every trip to the mall is an opportunity to interact with hundreds of anonymous beings. Every look into strangers’ eyes is an opportunity to offer hope.
What we do with the thousands of opportunities resides in our hands. Looking at the world through Gods’ perspective starts with using the peace, faith, patience, love, grace, humbleness and mercy with which He empowers us. When one starts living life with the big picture perspective, life will never appear the same. If we truly tapped into God’s perspective on what life is about, we would see there is so much more to life than ourselves. When the blindfold is removed, we begin to live the way God intended.
Next time you’re driving through Wal-Mart’s parking lot and see the dream parking spot, let the other feuding driver take it. Befriend the person at your job who is considered the company’s loser. Look for opportunities to serve anyone around you. Do favors for people who can’t give you anything in return.
This way of living is radical, and believe it or not, this is what God commands us to do: to live for Him and serve others so that we may know Him and make Him known.
[John Wehrle, 27, is owner of StrawProductions.com, manager of solo artist Tom Wehrle and freelance writer for several publications. He works with youth at his local church in St. Peters, Mo., and his claim to fame is appearing on Fear Factor and eating something unmentionable (check the Progressive Culture area for that).]
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