Are you where you want to be?


Musings: Relativity & Perspective

No, I’m not going to do an Albert Einstein.  I do not have that kind of analytical and scientific mind.  But it struck me that any given situation will probably be viewed differently by each person involved in it.  I just have to think about any normal, every day conversation between myself and my husband and how we sometimes struggle to understand exactly what the other is saying – and we’re both speaking English, and are relatively on the same page!

Just recently I read a phrase that really caught my attention.  It said something like, “A mistake is just another way of doing something.”  Yesterday I read another phrase which said, “A weed is no more than a flower in disguise.”  And they both carry the same message as the old proverb, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

I remember participating in a workshop some years ago.  There were various projects and activities that we engaged in during the course of the workshop.  One that I will always remember went something like this.  We re-entered the classroom after a short break and in the middle of the chalk board was the word “track”. 

The instructor asked us to just focus on that one word.  Then she asked us not to talk among ourselves and to write a sentence using that word.  As I recall, there were about twenty to twenty five of us in the class.  There may have been a handful of sentences written that were similar.  The rest were completely unique, each offering a different meaning and use of the word.

I’m sure that this creates problems from time to time.  Going back to my husband and I, I can think of a few times when the discussion has become somewhat heated simply because of two completely different perspectives, understandings of, one word or phrase.  (We’re probably not a good example because I’m British and he’s American, so the language barrier in and of itself sometimes is a bit of a beast!!!)

But different perspectives can also bring wonderful variety to our lives.  Just think of art and architecture, and what about music?  All the unique styles created by different people enrich our lives in all those areas.  I absolutely love Modigliani and Monet and yet they create works at opposite ends of the spectrum.  As do Degas and Dali and yet both have produced works of exquisite beauty.

I cannot imagine life without the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.  But there are days when all I want to hear is Dvorak or Beethoven.  And when I’m in the mood, please get my toes a-tapping with some down-to-earth, boot-stomping Blue Grass.

On the news yesterday and today are the heart-wrenching stories and pictures from Samoa and Indonesia.  People’s lives torn apart, wrecked by savage tsunami’s and earthquakes, forces of nature over which we have no control.  Any “small stuff” problems that I may have been lamenting about dwindle into nothingness by comparison.

Probably the biggest example of perspective that I can remember in my own life happened back in the mid seventies.  I was living in Sardinia at the time.  It was a gorgeous, warm, clear August evening and the sky was littered with millions of stars forming the Milky Way.  I remember standing on the patio of my little cottage and getting a cricked neck from staring upwards.

Then I had an idea.  There was a six-foot long wooden picnic table on the patio which I covered with a sleeping bag.  Then I lay on top and in wonderful comfort began to star gaze.  It was an incredible experience.  It looked as though someone had taken a dozen sacks full of diamonds and thrown them across the width and breadth of the sky.

It was only then, at the ripe old age of thirty something, that I began to get a clear idea of what the universe was about.  As I lay on that picnic table I suddenly realized that it wasn’t just a flat dark blue background with “big stars, and little stars” painted all over it.  I understood for the first time the significance of the word “infinity”.

I became aware that the “little stars’ were in fact probably just as “big” as the others seemed to me, but that they were further away and thus seemed “smaller”.  And I also realized that if I squinted I could just barely see even “smaller” stars that were even further away.  And in that one moment the full magnitude of “the universe” hit me. 

In that one moment I was both terrified and also in total awe, and I realized just how insignificant I really was in the bigger scheme of things.  And yet I also realized just how important I must be to my God that He has chosen to place me here in the bigger scheme of things.               

Reflection: Matthew 16:18

Yes, that’s the Matthew in the Bible, so if you’re not “into” the Bible you might be feeling turned off right now.  However, I encourage you, dare you even, to be open-minded and see what I have to say.  I’ve already declared myself in previous blogs as “spiritual”, but I think I’ve also shown you that I’m not “holier than thou” and that I have a great sense of humor.  So come along for the ride.

I was asked to do a reflection on this Bible verse for a candlelight service that was part of a retreat.  No guidelines were given other than I had about seven minutes to speak.  So I looked up the verse in the Bible to get the exact words.  In my version it went like this:

“Now I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it.”

So I sat back and I thought about Peter.  He’s depicted in the Bible as rather an impetuous person, someone who led with his impulses and instincts rather than his brain.  Hot-headed might be another way to put it.  He’s quite a lot like many of us.  I know he’s most definitely like me. 

If I had a button to access that governed my actions it would probably be labeled “bulldozer”.  I’ve already admitted several times that I’m a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants person.  I can still act without thinking things through clearly, throwing myself headlong and with great enthusiasm into whatever the latest project is.  Can any of you identify?

Jesus was working with what he had available at the time and I find it interesting that he chose everyday, normal people to be his disciples.  He didn’t pick out the learned or the scholarly. He picked fishermen and tax collectors, and during his day-to-day life he associated with the locals and even the “low lifers”.

I’m personally very grateful for that.  It allows me, and many others I believe, to identify with these people and realize that if they were worthy then perhaps I too am worthy.  If they could sit and talk and eat with Christ then maybe I can get close to him too. 

And so Christ chose Peter, an imperfect man, to become the first leader of his church.  Peter’s original name was Simon, but Christ renamed him Peter, which means “rock”.  With that in mind I began thinking about this reflection and what I wanted to say.  As I tossed the word “rock” around in my head, trying to relate it to my own experience, I began to smile. 

You see, I am in a recovery program and when I stumbled upon it some thirty years ago, I heard the phrase “rock bottom” used frequently.  It means that each person, before they can turn their life around, has to plummet to the very depths.  He or she has to arrive at a point of despair and then be willing to surrender totally.  And out of that despair,he or she needs to find a certain level of humility laced with a goodly dose of courage in order to ask for help.

So “rock bottom” tends to have a rather negative meaning attached to it.  It’s kind of like a necessary evil.  It’s a really bad, difficult place one has to get to before any good can come about.  But the more I thought about it I realized that reaching rock bottom could be viewed very differently.  Rock bottom could be seen as a place of firmness, of stability, and of strength.  But before getting down to that base line of solid rock I had to clear away all the mud and filth and muck of my previous lifestyle.

In Ephesians 4:17-19 (yes, I’m going to quote a bit more Bible!!), Paul encourages us to turn our backs on our old way of life.  "….you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds; darkened in understanding, alienated from the life of God ……… they have become callous and have handed themselves over to licentiousness for the practice of every kind of impurity to excess.” 

Ouch!!  I don’t know about any of you, but that struck a chord with me.  That was how I was living before I turned my life around.  So I had to do some house-cleaning.  I had to change old behaviors and attitudes.  I had to look into all the nooks and crannies, all the hidden recesses, and dig out all those dark secrets that I had been carrying around for years and throw them out.  It reminded me of a song back in the sixties or seventies (may have been Kenny Rogers) that talked about the skeletons that we keep “chained to the walls of the dungeons in our minds”.  Once this was done I had my firm rock on which I could build my new life.

Therefore just as Christ called upon Peter to be the rock upon which he intended to build his church (and “church” for those of you who do not worship in a specific religion can mean whatever decent way of life you are called to live), so I believe he calls upon each and every one of us to become that rock.  Let’s keep that in mind.  Let’s be encouraged to be decent human beings.  Let’s keep our house clean and that rock cleared of debris so that Christ can use us to his purpose.  Let’s be strong with each other so that “all the powers of hell will not conquer (us).”