“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing. It also depends on what sort of person you are.”
– C.S. Lewis
What do you see?
The painting above is one of my all-time favorite works of art. The more you look at it, the more you see.
At first, you see a farm house and land falling apart. But, look deeper.
There is more to see. A story begins to unfold.
This painting reminds me of a truth I am slowly beginning to learn. God is opening my eyes to something deeper than I thought was there.
So often we look at three aspects of life through a certain lens that we miss the story being told. We only see the broken and falling apart, but God changes our reality so we begin to look deeper.
View of Myself
How many times was I told by my father, “Keep going down that direction, and you’ll up end in jail before 25” or “Would you like to be sent to the City Mission?”
Now, I know I was not the easiest kid to bring up. But, what do you think happened to my mindset after years of hearing that? What happened to how I viewed myself?
I am never going to be good enough. I have to keep proving myself that I am not a failure. I am always going to have to strive for perfection, and constantly seek affirmation from everyone to know I am doing right.
I see myself through the lens of the Fall – my sins, my failures, my struggles, my stumbles.
Where does that leave me? Continuing to always strive for something I was never meant to strive for.
But, how does God see me? He sees me through the lens of redemption and restoration. He sees me walking with him, perfected by Jesus Christ, and on a mission to live out the purpose he has for me. He does not see the sin that used to be a part of me. He sees what his Holy Spirit can do in and through me.
Have I ever seen that in me? No. Instead, I have listened to everyone else who told me I am not good enough. I am not wanted. I can’t do anything amazing, because if people found the real me, then I would be done. This is the fear mentality I grew up in, attended college in, and tried to grow spiritually in.
However, God sees me as good enough, wanted, eager to do something amazing in me, and sees my story as something beautiful!
Why don’t I see that in me?
View of Others
I discovered I had very racist thinking in me….
I was with my wife. We were going to cash in a jar of coins for cash at a local Walmart. As we walked through the parking lot, a group of African-American guys walked beside us. I quickly covered the jar with my jacket. My wife turned to me, and she called me out on it.
Where did that come from? I quickly repented and realized racist thinking was in charge of how I viewed that group of guys.
It was me looking at them through the lens of the Fall. I see people as suspicious, backstabbers, liars, fake, and only out to get me. I was raised to think that way. I was raised to see the world through the lens of the Fall – full of sinners, wickedness, and all on their way to Hell. Follow that with a “Praise Jesus, I am not one of them!”
Yet, how does God see those around me? He sees them through the lens of redemption and restoration. He sees people in the light of his saving love. He sees their heart in need of a savior. He sees them in need of healing. He, then, sees their potential, their purposes, and what could happen when they allow the Spirit to lead them.
How drastically does that differ from the story I shared? Very much so. When I see people through the lens of redemption and restoration, I begin to see the best in people, I see the gold inside, I see what God can do. That is how I need to see others around me.
Jesus never saw others as out to get him. He saw them as needing to be caught by him.
Why is it so hard for us to view others through a lens of redemption and restoration?
View of God
“Be holy like God is holy!”
I heard this so many times in my life. The focus was on holiness, being holy in all I do, and the list that came with it. God becomes someone you must impress with your holiness, because anyone who isn’t holy will not see God.
God was up there with one eyebrow raised and recording each moment of my life. Was he going to use me if I messed up? I remember the president of the university I attended saying to me before I separated from them, “Stephen, by doing this, you have limited God’s opportunities for you.” All because I told my students why I was leaving, God couldn’t use me anymore. I remember when I first told my parents about my struggle with same-sex attraction. They told me how much I was not following God. They told me I was no longer living in light of the truth, and they questioned my salvation.
How did that make me see God? Through the lens of the Fall. His holiness and my sin. Everything revolved around his holiness.
Where does that lead?
However, how does God view himself? Good question. It is clear in Scripture that everything he does is out of love. His lens is redemption and restoration. The heart of that view is love. He sent his Son out of love. He gave us free will out of love. He wants a relationship with us out of love. In God’s love (even that is how he is personally) everything is wrapped up.
Through the lens of redemption and restoration, I can have a real relationship with God. He wants me. He wants his glory out of love. He loves people. He loves me.
Yet, is that how I view God? He doesn’t view me from the lens of the Fall, and neither should I. He never wanted us to. We get so stuck in the Fall-mindset that we never truly encounter him through the lens of redemption and restoration.
Why is it so hard for us to view God through his own lens of redemption and restoration?
The painting above is one of my favorites. Each time I see it, I see something new. A new detail hidden. If I quickly glance at it, then I see a broken down picture of a farm. Interesting, but let’s look at something else. But, when I take time to see it through the lens of the artist, I see a whole lot more.
It is the same for which lens we see ourselves, others, and God.
Do we see through the lens of the Fall? It impacts us, others, and God. It is all about sin, wickedness, Hell, punishment, the curse, and so much misery.
Yet, what happens when we put on the lens of redemption and restoration? It is all about grace, Jesus, the life in the Spirit, and the love of God.
Do you see the difference?
Which lens are you seeing through?
My world is changing when I meditate on this truth. It is a war for my soul. It is a battle of my mind. Switching lenses is not easy. But, it is worth it.
I can’t go on seeing life through the Fall. It only brings me into the pits God has rescued me out of through Christ. It is when I look at life through the lens of redemption and restoration that I can live in the Spirit.
Why are we not looking through God’s lens of redemption and restoration as he intended us to do?