Above: “Drawing Hands” by M.C. Escher
Sometimes it’s good to get a little perspective. For example, if you’re stranded on a deserted island get to higher ground so you can get a scope of the landscape. Is there any fresh water sources? Are you actually on an island? Where’s a good place to start a signal fire?
Perspective is knowing where you’re at in relation to everything else.
In life it’s good to have perspective. I’ve been watching the TV show Man Vs. Wild presented by Bear Grylls. He demonstrates survival techniques by voluntarily skydiving into the wilderness with a few essential items and then trying to find his way out without dying tragically. Along the way he makes a point of finding something disgusting to eat and then while he’s choking down a scorpion, snake, or fish beside his campfire, he’ll say something like, “Mmmm. Warm and nutritious; a much needed morale booster!”
Now whenever Janice feeds me something I don’t like I’ll smack my lips and say with my best English accent, “Warm and nutritious! A much needed morale booster.” It didn’t take her long to catch on that I was comparing the experience to eating scorpions and snakes cooked over a fire on a deserted island. But in reality, no matter what she makes it’s always going to be better than what I ate as a bachelor. I could focus solely on the fact that I’m not eating steak every night and complain bitterly about it, but if I widen my focus to include past meals in my life, I’ll see that I’m actually a really lucky man. As a bachelor I ate garbage or ordered takeout, and that was only after I was too hungry to avoid doing so. I hated making meals. If someone is kind enough to cook for me, I’m not going to complain about what they make. Perspective! Also, my experiences give me sympathy when Janice says she’s tired of cooking. “No problem Honey,” I say, “I’ll cook tonight.” Then I delegate the food preparation responsibility to Papa Johns.
“You know the kids can’t live off of pizza, right?” Janice shakes her head. “Oh well, I don’t care. I didn’t have to cook.” Perspective!
Maybe that’s why Bear Grylls enjoys his “food.” Yes, he’s eating a crunchy scorpion while it’s still alive and squirming (narrow focus) but he isn’t starving (big picture). Perspective!
Not having perspective is like having your car stall on train tracks and, while a mile long train bears down on you at thirty miles an hour, you’re fretting about the sticky gunk in your cupholders. “Ewww! What is that? Oh yuck!” You start digging through your car looking for a napkin or an old registration paper to clean your fingers. Meanwhile horns are blaring, the tracks are shaking, people are yelling, and your car doors are hanging open because all your passengers have lept to safety.
I also try to give Janice perspective. The other day she complained that the van window didn’t go up. I acted like it was the first time I heard about this problem.
“That’s strange,” I said, “but please realize that some people have to walk everywhere they go. The wind in your face means you’re not walking.” Besides, I was busy evaluating the carpet in the living room. It’s important to perform routine carpet inspections.
Janice offered me some perspective. “Yes, but the window hasn’t been working right since Adi was a baby and we were living in Goshen. Remember that time we almost froze to death after going through a drive through because it was snowing and the window wouldn’t shut?” I tried again to act like I couldn’t remember that incident. “I want it fixed before this winter! Besides, it’s more important than sleeping on the floor. Why are you sleeping on the floor anyway?”
“I was playing with the kids and didn’t feel like getting up.”
“You won’t have any kids if they all die of hypothermia because the stupid van window won’t go up.” She storms away. Perspective! The window is fixed now and I must say, it’s nice to have it working. I should’ve fixed it the first time she told me about it. Maybe someday I’ll learn I should listen to her. After all, the longer you live, the wider your experiences become and the more perspective you have. It’s like your lens gets zoomed out wider and wider and you begin to realize that all the little things that looked so big to you are actually just a small part of a much bigger picture.
This is why I stopped focusing so much on politics. I used to be very concerned about politics. Then one day I realized that I was outraged today about something entirely different than yesterday. I had completely forgotten about the previous outrageous things in only a week’s time! Yet nothing had changed. The old problems weren’t fixed. I just moved on to the next one because someone was focusing my attention on it. I needed perspective.
I like the perspective that David Platt gives in an episode of the podcast series called 10/40. Imagine we’re working in a foreign country and making good money while staying in a nice hotel room. Would you want to spend all your money fixing up your hotel room? No! You’d be sending as much of it as you could home. This life is a hotel, eternity is our home. Where are you choosing to invest the resources that were given you? Perspective!
God’s been giving me perspective.
“I want you to be a missionary,” God said.
“Ok, adventure. Cool. Sure, OK.” I said.
“OK, great. First step is raising support.” God gets a blank stare so He clarifies. “That means you have to ask people for money. You didn’t think I meant for you to do this all alone, did you?”
“With all due respect sir, I’d rather die.”
“That’s pretty selfish.”
“What? I’m not selfish. I’m kind and loving and caring and stuff.” I feel a little insulted. Hasn’t God noticed all my effort?
“Well, you’d rather just give up and get eaten by worms than do something uncomfortable so that people who’ve never heard of me can find the same salvation I gave to you.”
“Uh… well… I guess when you put it that way…”
Josh, my engine shop supervisor, likes to tell a story from when his family was serving in Africa. He had just performed some pretty major repairs on one of their planes but it wasn’t anything above his pay grade. Just another day on the mission field doing something that he was good at. He’s a competent mechanic, competent enough that all the maintenance is pretty routine. He finished up, wiped the greasy fingerprints off of the paint, and turned it over to the pilot to perform a return-to-service flight. As the plane was taxing out to the runway, Josh’s kids dropped by the hangar. The pilot saw them, leaned out the plane window, and invited the kids to jump in and go along. As Josh watched from the hangar, his kids jumped in the freshly repaired airplane and, as it started rolling down the runway, his mind began racing. Suddenly a routine maintenance event had major implications! Did he forget to torque any nuts? Did he forget a wrench in the engine somewhere? His kids are in that plane! Now he likes to ask apprentices as they finish up an engine, “Would you let your kids fly in this plane? Because other people’s kids will.”
Here in our hangar in Ohio it can be easy to forget that the planes we work on fly over some of the most remote regions on earth carrying the most vulnerable people on earth towards the help they would never get otherwise. “Build that engine like your child’s life depends on it” is good advice because it’s quite likely that someone else’s child’s life will depend on it.
“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Our supporters mean the world to us and there’s a bunch of you guys out there. Thank you! Our little family can be involved in world evangelism because of your generosity. Perspective!
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