A lesson in perspective

When I teach the elements of literature, I always have to spend considerable time discussing perspective or ‘point of view’.  The way a story is told changes dramatically depending on who is doing the telling.

For instance, slavery, from the point of view of a wealthy southern land owner, was a pretty genius idea.  Free labor that reproduces itself.  Brilliant.

However, from the point of view of the actual human being who was being held against her will, in a barely habitable shack, subjected to rape, physical abuse, and near starvation, it was not such a great idea.

Similarly, perspective is impacted by how close you are standing to the story.

Recently Bill O’Reilly, in an interview with Jon Stewart, argued that there is ‘no white privilege’ because “there is no more slavery, there is no Jim Crow..” From his point of view, “If you work hard, if you get educated, if you are an honest person, you can make it in America.”  It worked for him. 

However, from the point of view of young black man being educated in an inner city school in America, surrounded by poverty and the lack of resources,  it may not seem so simple.  The system doesn’t always work where he’s living.

But this post isn’t really supposed to be about slavery or about white privilege.  It’s about perspective. I recently got some.

I was sitting next to my friend last Saturday after the memorial service for his wife of forty years who had just finished her eight-year battle with breast cancer.  He said to me, “So, what’s this health issue you are dealing with?”  Perspective.  I was frankly a little embarrassed.  Not because he implied that my illness was ‘less than’ breast cancer.  Not in the least.  He was genuinely concerned about me.  However, my internal dialogue went something like this.  Wow.  He has just watched his wife go through round after round of chemo, several surgeries and hospitalizations, not a few brushes with death, and then the final blow.  And I am complaining about joint pain and fatigue.  Perspective.

This past Wednesday I, of course, went to Bible study.  The teacher was explaining that in the Bible there are three time periods mentioned — now, a little while, and when Jesus is revealed.  My internal dialogue went something like this. Right now I’ve got it pretty good.  Yes, I feel kinda crappy most of the time, but I am not really limited from living my life.  And seriously, it’s only going to be a little while until Jesus is revealed.  How do I want to spend that ‘little while’? Perspective.

Now, let me be clear.  I am still living with some kind of health issue.  It, as I told my friend, “slows me down.”  However, as I have explored over and over again in this blog, having been “slowed down” has been a huge blessing for me.  Slow, it turns out, is a pretty good speed for me.

From inside this body, I would say that my life has changed.  In some ways it is less comfortable, but in some ways, it is much more healthy than it has ever been.

From outside this body, I would say that I’ve got a pretty amazing life. I am living with a husband who loves me and supports this grace period.  I live minutes from two very competent medical centers.  I have access to great foods and a phenomenal exercise facility. I have so many friends! I have healthy children and a grandbaby on the way.  And I get to spend a lot of time in my pajamas!

I do love pajamas.

Sometimes we need to move around a little bit, stand in a different spot, and get a healthy dose of perspective.

Romans 8:18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing

with the glory that is to be revealed in us.

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