How do you see the world? By the world, I mean the people you meet, the places you go, and the situations you encounter. We all have a unique way of seeing or perceiving the world. There are many factors that have an effect on how we “see”; like cultural upbringing, personal experiences, religious beliefs, fears, hopes, personality, goals, and more. All of these can play a role in two different people looking at the same situation and/or people and “seeing” completely differently.
I must admit that for a lot years I was lousy at seeing things through the eyes of anyone else, and frankly for most of that time I didn’t want to see things any differently than from my own perspective. Years and experiences (read “hard knocks”) have a way of changing things though. I do not claim any level of expertise at this, but I can see some progress there.
Today, while out for a doctor’s appointment for my daughter I had a chance for a little self-check on this exercise of seeing through another’s eyes. My daughter has Down Syndrome, and prior to finding out that the second child my wife and I were expecting definitely had something for a genetic issue, they thought D.S. but were not sure, I had almost no experience in the world of “Special Needs”. Like probably most people in their late-20’s it was just not something I contemplated. Oh sure you would see the occasional harried parent pushing an over-sized stroller, or helping a child with obvious problems, but I am afraid that to be totally honest, I do not remember a time I ever attempted to engage, or help, or anything with either the parent/caretaker, or the child/person with the disability. I do remember the occasional conversation during which I was always uncomfortable; what do you say, what do you not say, and what do you talk about?
That was a long time ago, though. Now I have spent almost 7 years in the world of special needs. I have sat with a father who found out that his baby girl was like my little girl. I remember holding her and telling this dad whose world was just rocked that his daughter, his princess was beautiful, because she was. I still have a long way to go, there are still most times when I do not know what to say. I know that sounds strange coming from a writer, but writing is safe. If I get a word or sentence wrong I can erase it and the computer’s world wasn’t shattered by my mistake. That is not always the case when talking to people.
To finish the story of today’s little self-check; after the appointment I was going to duck into the restroom before getting into the car for the drive home. As I stepped around the corner I almost stepped on a service dog, as a dog person I reflexively patted the poor critter I almost trampled, then stopped as I caught myself interrupting a service dog working. Next to the dog was his little charge, his person to watch over; a cute little boy in one of those big strollers. His mom was trying to balance the door to the ladies room, washing hands of another child, watching the dog, and her son. I smiled at the boy, and told him how much I liked his dog and went on my way, smiling and nodding to mom as I went.
Not much of a story I know, but the real story isn’t the one that could be seen. It was the difference in me I noticed as I reflected on it. I realized that unlike the me of years ago, I wasn’t uncomfortable to interact with the boy, and my first thought of the mom was, “I know how hard that can be, trying to take care of all those things at once.” I can tell you for sure that is a change that stood out to me.
Whenever there is a change needed in our lives, it is helpful to have a good role model. Then we practice the behavior “as-if” we really were how we want to be. At least, I have found that approach helpful. My role model is Jesus. All through the gospels we find the stories of how Jesus interacted with people who were different than He was. People in need, people despised by others, people shunned by others, some through their own fault and some not. Upon careful reading of the gospels, I have found that there is not a single example of Jesus treating someone harshly that was hurting, despised, put down, broken, seeking help, seeking answers, or simply seeking love. In fact the only recorded times of Jesus being harsh, were when He was dealing with religious, self-righteous, arrogant people who thought they had it all together. They were called Scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ time.
We still have them today though. You can find them on both sides of any theological, or philosophical fence. They are the ones quick to point out what is wrong “with those people”. Usually with no attempt to see the world as “those people” see it. I am very familiar with the ways of a spiritual Pharisee, because for many years I was one. Then, through a series of time in the “refining fire”, Jesus showed me a different way. I still step into the role of Pharisee at times, but thankfully those times are becoming less often.
In Luke we read about Jesus and his disciples traveling to a little town called Nain. There they came upon a funeral procession, where a widow had just lost her only son. In the culture of the time, a widow whose only son died meant that her life was devastated. Unable to work, and with nobody to care for her she was to be reduced to a beggar on the street at best. In verse 13 “And when the Lord(Jesus) saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her ‘Do not weep.’” As the story goes on, Jesus stops the funeral procession, raises the boy from the dead and gives him back to his mother.
The part that draws me to the story though, is when Jesus saw her, He had compassion. This is where I get my role model. I try to take that part of the story into my life. No matter who I see, and whatever it is that makes them different from me, I try to see them through the eyes of my Savior. For when Jesus looks at this person, He loves them as they are, not as they should be; just like he loves me as I am and not as I should be1. He looked at this person and then went to the cross willingly for that person. When I try to stop in my life and look at someone through that prism, it changes me.
If you repeat an action enough times it becomes a habit. Choosing to look at others “Through Another’s (Jesus’) Eyes” is something I have to keep consciously repeating and it is not habit yet. Days like today though, point to me that Jesus is making the change, a little bit at a time, one day at a time he is changing me; and that makes for a good day!
- “Just as I am and not as I should be” Taken from Brennan Manning’s Furious Longing of God