There are 8 billion different realities alive and well in our world today.
It struck me suddenly the other day, this realization that all the world is a menagerie of senses and information, and that every single person receives and interprets it differently. I was driving in my car, peering at the drivers and their passengers. We were all sharing the same strip of road; the dripping rain that fell that day showered us all just the same. But I noticed that some people around me were smiling and talking, while others stared ahead, jaws locked. One woman held her phone to her mouth, hands moving around to make her point. An old guy passed me and a billow of smoke rolled out his window. Vanity plates and bumper stickers and car models cried, "Here I am. This is what I'm about. This is how I understand the world. This is where I fit."
Oh, the worlds we create.
I had just met with a friend, someone from my church who was taking the time to sit with me and talk through some of the hard stuff from this past year. I had driven there feeling overwhelmed, hard, apathetic, bitter, dark. I was having a hard time processing the death that happened, the dreams that had not, and the disturbing sense that joy and beauty were no longer relevant, at least not in my corner of the world.
When I get like this, there is a single prayer I breathe:
God, change my perspective. Change my perspective, shift my reality, let me see the world like you see it. Illuminate all this darkness and help me see it different because I don't like what I'm seeing now. I don't want to experience it this way. Change my perspective, change my perspective, change my perspective.
I have prayed this prayer countless times, and it works. I prayed it that day, on the way to my friend, and as we sat down and spoke, I felt a movement inside me. The dust was moving around, the locks were twisting and clicking, things were rearranging. She was sharing her perspective with me and it was beginning to influence mine, to rework the way I was thinking and feeling about what had happened this year. I left with some hope. I left feeling like I wasn't resigned to my current reality forever.
And even now, my circumstances are evolving more slowly than I'd like. My toddler is still sleep-striking, my friends and family members are still struggling through sickness, and I'm still feeling frustrated by how little I can control. I pray for these struggles to be over and, each day, I wake up and find that they are still very much alive. But God is tending to me, because even though he's not revolutionizing what I am experiencing, he is revolutionizing how I'm experiencing it, and I'm finding that that is giving me the strength to hope for beautiful things again in this new year.
I don't have anything against New Year's Resolutions. In fact, I make them every year myself and always resolve to engage in more worthy pastimes, like reading more books, making more time to write, and moving my body each day. But then mid-January always comes and I find that the same struggles I faced the year before are still very much present now, and what I need are not actually more things to do, but new ways to look at what I'm already doing, feeling, and experiencing. And I breathe that prayer again (God - Change my perspective, change my perspective, change my perspective), and I find fresh air blowing all through my spoilt plans and reminding me that the best lens for viewing the world is through God's love, every time.
Some tips for shaking up your perspective:
- Pray that God will let you see the same 'old' things in entirely new ways.
- Talk to someone new. Sometimes a conversation with someone who thinks differently than you can be a stimulus for fresh perspective. Think of someone in a different age group, or profession, or background knowledge.
- Read a book in a different genre than you usually do. Always read theology books? Try fantasy. Into romantic fiction? Try history. Mix it up.
- Change your routine. Do you always do the same thing when you get home from work each night? Could you visit a friend instead, or make something new for dinner, or create rather than consume?
What tips do you have for shifting your perspective when you're feeling stuck? I'd love to read them in the comments (and try them in this new year)!