‘I saw a bubble blow past my window, fat and wobbly and ripening toward that dragonfly blue they turn just before they burst. So I looked down at the yard and there you were, you and your mother blowing bubbles at the cat, such a barrage of them that the poor beast was beside herself at the glut of opportunity…. Some of the bubbles drifted up through branches, even above the trees. You two were too intent on the cat to see the celestial consequences of your worldly endeavours. They were lovely.’1
‘Den of Geek’, the name says it all and I readily own up to being a daily reader; it’s a window on the world of superheroes. A fascinating world where moral dilemmas are staple to the lives of the characters: dilemmas sometimes posed by villains, sometimes set by the heroes themselves. Whatever their origin these conflicts can be looked at from different angles and heroes have to choose which; but, how do they choose and how do the gain the perspective to make the right choice? That’s what makes the story.
And this echoes our story: a story lived out in a world of different opinions and different actions based upon these. Whether in war or peace, work or friendship, family or governance, life entails perspective, choice and consequences. But, how do we gain and hold a perspective worthy of the One whose name we bear? What is at the core of our integrity?
In art perspective is present when properties such as the shape, position and magnitude of three-dimensional objects are represented on a plane so as to give an accurate perception of the relationship between these properties. This would seem common sense and provide a good metaphor for the balance we would hope to achieve when expressing and living out our values and opinions. However, it risks being superficial; the same set of objects can be viewed from different vantage points, so how, from one position, can we acknowledge all of these? Further, how can we see the depths, which are under the surface? There is another form of perspective we need to explore.
A number of years ago I saw Picasso’s ‘Guernica’ for the first time – I walked into a room and was stunned by the twenty-five square metre mural. Its depiction of the absolute horror of the bombing of the Spanish city stabbed my heart, and it did so in a way that a more conventional portrayal probably couldn’t. Picasso’s style reshaped form and showed multiple angles at the same time. It was not realistic, if by this we mean something akin to a photographic image, however, it was realistic in a complementary and much more profound way: it bared the heart of the reality and screamed the depths of the experience. Without compromise it demanded a reaction and it did so by showing you what you could not see – this was its perspective.
So, although we now see only, ‘in a mirror dimly’2, how can we gain and hold a right perspective, which has clarity and complexity, simplicity and nuance, understanding and emotion and which allows us to blow bubbles, enjoy the antics of the cat and glimpse the wider glory? The sage may have written, ‘Wisdom cries out in the street, in the squares she raises her voice. At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks’3, but in these places, where we want to be, how do we hear above the noise, the greed, the violence and the seduction that draws us down dark paths?
There are many things we could say in response: humility, trust, the need of one another to mention a few. But, key to delving below the surface is this: being with Jesus. This might sound so obvious that it need not be said, but do we, who are called to walk with Jesus, easily grasp and practise what this means.
In the time of Jesus, the disciples of a Rabbi were called to be with their teacher 24/7; it was not primarily that they could learn certain facts, but rather that they would begin to see the world through the eyes of the Rabbi. Jesus’ disciples were called to be with him in all circumstances, to see the world through his eyes, to be transformed by this and to live accordingly. This was a commitment of being, not merely a daily discipline of spiritual practice; understanding the life of the Kingdom and the breath of scripture was founded on the intentional dying to live out this relationship. This too, through the gift of the Spirit is our life, but are we willing fully and open-endedly to embrace it? Even if it may not be apparent to others, have weariness, triumphs or other voices called us away and robbed us both of the joy of blowing bubbles and the wonder of glimpsing where those bubbles shine and bring beauty?
What might we do if our vision has become dulled and we do not see as we should: how do we be with Jesus? What do we do when we ache within, because we know we are merely playing on the surface of life; when our relationship with Jesus has been distorted to the cerebral or the transactional? There are no hurried shortcuts; just the opposite, for, as we said, first and foremost, this is a commitment of being not an application of technique.
As we grapple with this the following questions may be helpful:
- At this moment am I truly embracing the radical implications of abandoning myself to God, or, in practice, do I reserve the right to defer to my own wisdom or weakness?
- Even though my responsibilities may demand a busyness in much of my life, am I willing, daily, to slow down and embrace a stillness, where I intentionally ‘be’ in God’s presence with no agenda: What would help me do this?
- To help me be aware of Jesus’ companionship 24/7 what, little by little, would help me integrate every part of my daily life into an ongoing conversation with him?
- As I embrace the complexity that will come through the perspective Jesus gives me, am I willing to be perplexed and take risks?
- Robinson Marilynne, Gilead, (Virago Press, paperback 2005), p. 10.
- 1 Corinthians 13:12 [NRSV]
- Proverbs 1: 20, 21[NRSV]
David has been involved in Pioneering/Church planting contexts in Spain and in Scotland, and until recently was the Church of Scotland Development Worker for Fresh Expression of Church. He, with others, has written ‘Seeing Afresh: Learning from Fresh Expressions of Church [St. Andrew Press, 2019].
Please note that the statements and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Contemporary Christianity.