I held a book parallel to the floor at his eye level, so that he couldn’t see the cover or spine or back cover, just white lines of pages at the top of the book.
“What book is this?” I asked.
He recognized the book by its size and shape and told me.
“Who is the author of this book?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
“Perhaps it would help if we changed our perspective,” I said, as I turned the book so that he could see the spine.
He read the author’s last name.
“What’s the author’s full name?”
“I don’t know,” he answered.
I turned the book again, this time so that he could see the front cover. He read the author’s whole name, and could now also tell me the full title and subtitle of the book.
One afternoon last week, this was how my son and I began a discussion about perspective.
He was disappointed that there were things he couldn’t do until he finished the things he had to do. I talked about what the experiences of other children who are in school from 8:30 to 3:00 each day might be like. I talked about the things he had the privilege of doing every day that other kids couldn’t.
My goal wasn’t really a lesson in comparison. Ultimately, my goal was to help him see his situation from a different perspective.
I’ve commented before that self-pity is a dangerous bedfellow and if you let him, he’ll convince you that there are all these things that you need and deserve and ought not to have to deal with because you are you and somehow, you’re just entitled to get what you want and not get what you don’t want.
At the end of a week of not sleeping particularly well, I came down with an absolutely wretched sore throat that had me up in the night attempting to gargle salt water (that ended badly on this occasion…), and eventually sipping on hot water with honey and lemon into the wee hours of the morning.
Self-pity might be quick to whisper: Oh this is awful. You don’t deserve this. You have so much going on, why should this be happening to you?
But if I lean into the Truth a little harder, I’ll hear a very different message: The Lord is with you, even here in this circumstance. What a privilege it is that you live in a place where you have access to excellent medical care if you need it, and you have the resources to pay for it.
Self-pity is often quick to point out where things are going right for everyone else. While this whisper may not surface in words, it can give you the vague illusion that you’re the only one really suffering. Everyone else in your sleepy little town is fast asleep tonight at 4 am, while you are awake and miserable.
But lean a little closer to the Truth and you’ll remember: People are suffering all over the world. Within a few minutes online just today, I saw friends in the hospital with their children, a friend asking for prayer for a father who had a heart attack, and imagery from ReSurge International, requesting support for children around the world living in poverty who need access to plastic surgery that will change their lives forever.
You can’t put a price tag on perspective, can you?
When our circumstances feel less than ideal, it’s easy for us to dwell on what’s wrong and forget to give thanks for all that’s right.
Truthfully, there are thousands of gifts for the counting in our every day lives. And sometimes just choosing gratefulness for the good is enough to lift your eyes above the bad and change your perspective.
No, I didn’t want to be in bed sick that morning, but aren’t I so fortunate my husband works from home and is able to help with the children and let me rest?
Perhaps you can’t afford something you’ve been hoping for, even saving up for, for a long time — but how many other gifts are you surrounded by? Start counting and be amazed that it’s hard to stop.
Perhaps, like the Apostle Paul, there’s this ‘thorn in the flesh’ — this circumstance you feel trapped in, and you can’t see past it to any good possibilities. But after asking the Lord to take it away, Paul heard the Lord say, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”
We recently had a couple of days at the beach together with family visiting from far away. I wondered how our little two-year-old Belle might feel about the big, crashing waves, perhaps feeling a little cold in a wet bathing suit with a breeze. From her perspective, the waves crashing just twenty feet away are way above her head, and when one comes in quickly, it’s above her knees in just a moment.
But, she’s surprised me each and every time we’ve been to the beach. She wants to hold a hand, and head straight for the water. She is joyful and delighted to be at the beach. She gets knocked down, but she gets up again. She gets water in her eyes, but she recovers quickly and is ready to get back to splashing.
Something in her perspective tells her: this place is a gift. I’m happy to be here. I’m going to enjoy every moment of this place.
Oh, what the Lord can do, both in and through our souls when we truly see that our lives are so full of grace, so full of gifts!
Turn the book over today, friends. Try to see your circumstances from a different perspective. Look for reasons to give thanks, to be brave, to love with abundant grace, and just keep on saying thank you.
Take off your shoes, remember: Your weakness creates a glorious space for His all-sufficient strength. Lean hard on Him.