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Perspective (First World Problems)

Perspective. A few weeks ago, our water was turned off at the little boarding school campus that we live on. The mess of damage pipes caused a frustrated frenzy over the couple of days that we were without water, and I couldn’t help but remember Kenya. Last spring several teaching and administrative staff took a dozen students with us to Kenya, Africa, for an eye-opening and exciting experience.

Perspective. Much of Africa’s experience with water is very, very different from our own in America. When I think about not having water here at school; we had water bottles, we ordered pizza. The cafeteria didn't just collapse. Staff popped over to the store a couple miles from home and got some extra water bottles. We did fine, we made it happen. We walked a little further to get a shower and we did things a bit more thoughtfully.

When we were in Africa, we saw ladies carrying a big barrel on their back with water and we passed donkey carts carrying huge water barrels. Huge cisterns on the side of the road served people who would travel for miles to load up. Sometimes people have to walk miles to buy water once a week. Water is so important. When I think about their perspective… For a “hot minute” I felt so irritated that I didn't have water. I felt like I was done a little dirty. I felt a little grumpy.

There's so much to be said about perspective. Things can always been seen from two different sides. We might see the exact event or situation as a total disaster or not really a big deal, a normal inconvenience.

The Oxford Online Dictionary says that perspective is “a particular attitude towards, or a way of regarding something, your point of view.”

Perspective. Are you familiar with the word schema? There are words that have a variety of meanings, the same “word” that just has different meanings to different groups. It's not like a pair of scissors or a pear that you eat, but words that mean different things to different people.

Margin. What is a margin? In the schema of financial workers, it’s a percentage of profit or loss, but for design - from landscaping to newspapers to websites, it’s the outer edges.

Your audience makes all the difference, every time. You could shout out “I like nuts!” This has a very different meaning when you’re communicating with your hearing-impaired ice cream lady, versus when you’re in a room full of 12-year-old boys. “I like nuts!” Perspective.

It really matters what room you're in, what words you say. Perspective matters.

There’s an ancient Chinese fable that teaches a strange but profound lesson. Sai Weng was an old farmer. One day, Sai Weng lost his horse. All the neighbors gathered around because this was before Instagram or Facebook.

“Oh, you poor thing, that's so unfortunate! That's so sad that you lost your horse.”

He calmly replied, “Ah, maybe. Could be good, could be bad. We'll see.”

What? They all left, shaking their heads.

The next day, that horse came back with friends… seven wild horses. Sei Weng and his family rounded them up into the corral and all the neighbors came again. They were talking, telling the latest news, chatting.

And they said, “Oh, you're so lucky. Now you have eight horses. You're way richer than you were before.”

He responded, “Maybe I am. Maybe I'm not. We'll see.”

The next day, his son, who was as excited as the neighbors, decided that he was going to break those horses. Maybe he would sell some of them or maybe raise some babies and make some money off this.

Of course the horses were wild. He got kicked off the horse’s back and broke his leg.

When all the neighbors came around, what'd they say? “Oh my goodness!” They said, “You are so unlucky! This situation is terrible, so awful. Your poor son has a broken leg.”

The farmer, as could be expected, said, “Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Also, unsurprisingly, they grumbled, “How could this be a good thing?”

They all went home rolling their eyes and fussing about that strange old farmer. How could this be a good thing?

The next day, riders came through town calling all able-bodied men to go to war.

But his son didn't have to go.

All the neighbors said, “Oh, you're so lucky! Your son doesn't have to go to war.”

And what did Sei Wing say? “Maybe, we'll see.”

It's all about perspective.

You've heard before that 10% of life is what happens to you. What is the other 90% of life? It's how you respond to what happens to you. It's what you do about what happens to you, your choices when life comes rushing at you. Sometimes you need to change your perspective. Sometimes we need to see things through a different view, a different lens.

Choosing a healthy perspective can literally save your life. Changing your perspective can help you deal with anxiety, help you to find peace. But sometimes there's another reason to change your perspective: sometimes you’re just wrong.

There are plenty of fears of the life around us. Many are legitimate, but many are generally irrational, like fear of heights or water or public spaces. While bad things could always happen there are many people with needless fear of the dark or of water, lightening, boogeymen… needles. Most of these things are extremely unlikely to do an real harm, but people can be so afraid… Because of their perspective.

Kings 6:8 tells a story of someone who was desperately afraid. This fear looked pretty legitimate. It wasn’t. He was wrong. Sometimes the best thing to know is that your fear is not legitimate, understandable perhaps, but not legitimate because it’s based on inaccurate information.

"When the king of Aram was at war with Israel, he would confer with his officers and say, we'll mobilize our forces at such and such a place. But immediately, Elisha, the man of God, would warn the king of Israel, don't go near that place for the Armenians are planning to mobilize their troops there. So the king of Israel would send word to the place indicated by the man of God.

Time and time again, Elisha warned the king so he would be on the alert there. The king of Aram became very upset over this. He called his officers together and demanded, “Which of you is the traitor? Who's been informing the king of Israel of my plan?”

“It's not us, My Lord, the king,” one of the officers replied.

“Elisha, the prophet in Israel, tells the king of Israel, even the words you speak in the privacy of your bedroom.”

“Go and find out where he is,” the king commanded, “So I can send troops to seize him!”

And the report came back, “Elisha is at Dothan.”

So one night, the king of Aram sent a great army with many chariots and horses to surround the city. When the servants of the man of God, Elisha, got up early the next morning and went outside, there were troops, horses, chariots everywhere.

“Oh, Sir, what will we do now?” The young man cried to Elisha.

“Don't be afraid,” Elisha told him, “For there are more on our side than on theirs.”

Then Elisha prayed, “Oh, Lord, open this man's eyes and let him see.”

The Lord opened the young man's eyes.” And when he looked up, what did he see on the hillside? He looked up and he saw that the hillside around Elisha was filled with horses and chariots of fire.

It's important to change your perspective when you’re afraid, when you’re stressed, when you’re struggling, because sometimes you're just wrong.

Ezekiel 36:26 says, “I will give you a new heart. I will put a new spirit within you.” God promises to give you a new heart.

Maybe you’re heard this all your life, that God promises to give you a new heart. He promises to give us a new perspective. Be honest with yourself. Have any of you ever wondered how? Do you want to know how? How can you get this new heart, this new perspective?

Sometimes we overcomplicate things as Christians. You know that the gospel, the good news, the new heart … all that is a mystery. The mystery is that it happens at all! People don't always prove themselves worthy, do they? And sometimes you do life badly. The fact that God can change an old heart into a new heart, that's the mystery! But the way that he does it is actually given to us over and over again in the Bible. We can know how.

How can I change my perspective?

Life Happens.

First of all, sometimes you just have to realize that life happens.

Sometimes life changes perspective for us. And it's amazing how simple our needs actually are. When the water was out a few weeks ago, we quickly realized we probably weren't going to die if we didn't get to flush the toilet every single time. We realized that we’d be okay if we didn't get three showers that day.

Have you ever seen a loved one die a slow death? Someone sick, maybe with cancer or heart failure, where for weeks they were wasting away… someone that you loved very much, but knew was going to die soon. If you’ve experienced that it’s amazing how many things don't matter anymore.

If you are in the hospital bed sick, does it matter if you get your assignment in on time? You're still in school. It doesn't really matter so much, right? What matters is that you get that next breath. Things get so much more simple.

Sometimes life happens and our perspective narrows down and we realize the things that are important in life.

When I was a little girl and I was living in the Marshall Islands, our power went out a lot. Once, when we were first there, our power went out and we had no way to get water, we had no lights, nothing worked in the house. And we were hungry. We didn't have a lot of snacky foods. We were poor and there wasn't a lot available.

We would always cook rice and beans or other things but now we didn't have a stove that worked and we didn't know what to do. But our best friends were another pastor and family that lived there and you know what they did? They took us out into our front yard and they taught us how to build a fire, island-style.

We brought out our old pots and pans. We brought the water that we had in buckets and we made food outside. It was so dark in the houses way before sundown, so our whole neighborhood came out.

And we were cooking out there and doing our work. We were doing our homework and writing our papers and doing everything because light lasts longer outside than inside. You know that that was one of the best memory-making times in my childhood, when all the neighbors came out and shared.

You learn how to live differently and make memories when life changes your perspective for you.

Pursue gratefulness.

Another way to change your perspective and to allow God to implant that new heart into you is gratefulness. Practice gratefulness even when you want to complain.

Do you ever feel like griping? You ever feel like complaining? About five or ten years ago, I had been really stressed. I'd been stressed about paying a certain bill on time and getting my homework done and all the things that I needed to do. And I woke up one morning really after a really frazzled evening, but I woke up and stretched, it was in the winter, and I looked out and I could see the cold outside and I realized that I had a thick down comforter. I was laying in a soft bed. I was clean, the house smelled good. I was doing really well. I was comfortable.

I thought, “You know, I'm so stressed, I don't know what I'm doing, but I literally have the life of a princess!” A hundred years ago, a soft bed, plenty to eat, all the things that I had, lying there… those were things that only the rich people had. Most of us have everything that we actually need right now.


Practice seeing things through the other person’s eyes.

The next thing is if you want to receive that new heart, to understand, to have a mind that sees, choose to practice seeing things from the other side.

Have you ever stopped when you have an argument to think about the perspective of the other person? What does the person on the other side of this think and feel? How clearly can you see from their perspective? What really matters to them? What are their worries and aspirations? What do they think and feel right now and in general? What are their fears, frustrations, and obstacles?

It can be an enlightening exercise to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Sometimes just seeing something from someone else's perspective will give you wisdom and compassion. Sometimes it will just help you come to peace within yourself.


Reframe your negative thoughts.

Another powerful tool for getting into a different place is that you get to choose to reframe your negative thoughts.

When your palms are sweaty and your heart is racing and you're scared, is that fear and anxiety or is excitement for something new that you want to embrace?

You get to choose to put a spin on every emotion. If you feel negative and angry, are you just mad and is it a bad thing or what's the deeper reason? Are you being protective? Are you being helpful? Do you need to make something right?

Slow down and connect.

One final helpful choice is create quiet time, allowing yourself to connect with God, to learn and to study and think. Connect with the quiet relationships you need for cultivating your own growth. Connect with your own heart and desires and dreams.

Sometimes it's worth a change in perspective.

Sometimes a first world problem moment (like a broken pipe) reminds you that maybe you're not doing life the way that you had hoped to. Are you okay? Are you growing the way that you want to be growing? Are you becoming who you plan on being? You get to define your experience. You get to choose how you look at the situation. You get to see and determine how much you contribute to the world around you. You get to choose your happy.


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