Reading Psalm 40 this morning led me to the dictionary for some definitions of the word perspective. After the basic ideas, there were some interesting and even funny examples of the word in context, like: From their different perspectives, the scientists and musician both agree on music’s emotional power, and It took me awhile to put the housewives’ rebellion into perspective. I remember when I first realized a very important truth about perspective in one of its definitions. Sitting directly across from someone in a group having a conversation, I recognized that it was totally impossible for that person to see what I could see (physically) because we do not have eyes in the back of our heads (although many Catholic children thought the nuns that taught them in school were exceptions to that rule!). Because we do not have 360 degree swivel ability, we can only see just so far around us without turning our heads.
This truth about perspective has helped me when I am astounded or appalled that someone with whom I am speaking disagrees with what I’m saying. “How could he think that way?” I ask myself, or “Can’t she see the flaw in that opinion?” The difficulty is that when we move from the practical, physical definition to the intellectual, philosophical arena, there is a much more complex process of apprehension going on. I have come to the conclusion that in order to avoid distress it’s better to stay in the realm of “he just can’t see it” than to try to convince someone of something I see as simple truth.
Here’s what started all the ruckus in my brain this morning: O Lord, all that you do is marked with good, and all the things that you have in mind for us are incomparable. O that I could speak it all for everyone to hear and know, but it is vast and overwhelms the soul. Yet I know this, for you have made my inner ear to hear, that it is never bloody sacrifices we burn for sins you want or need from us. For even in the scroll of Torah, the book you wrote, it is said that I should simply do your will. That is it, your whole desire, which has now become my soul’s delight. So from my heart I keep your ways, your law of life. (Ps 40:7-10)
My perspective on life with God is that if I do my best to do my best God is satisfied, actually overjoyed, with that and doesn’t require anything more than my love. Some would say that perspective is a cop out, as in: What ever happened to “Be ye perfect as your heavenly father is perfect?” Atonement looms large in that perspective. For me, God’s “law of life” is love and that is the perspective from which I view everything. Our socialization and education contribute so much to our perspectives on things; it takes personal experience and reflection on that experience for things to start to shift. It’s all very complicated…so I try to keep that first basic principle in mind (the impossibility of you seeing exactly what I see unless you are standing beside me – or, more precisely, in my skin) and always move from the perspective of love. Not easy, maybe flawed, but more and more often, it works for me!