Soon after receiving a devastating prognosis for my baby, I was introduced to a concept that eventually changed everything – my whole life, not just the specific circumstance I was facing with my son. I ran across this concept in a much bigger story than mine, in the book of Exodus.
This story begins in Exodus 3 where we find Moses walking through the desert. Here’s my super-condensed recap of what preceded this walk in the desert. He has run away from the luxurious life he had known since childhood. As an infant he was marked to be killed but then miraculously spared by a princess and raised as royalty. Then, as an adult he is pulled emotionally back to his roots, perceiving for the first time the cruelty being imposed upon his people and he chooses to flee to the desert. There, I would imagine, his plan is to live out the remainder of his life in anonymity and tranquility. So while contentedly walking his sheep through the afternoon sun, he sees in the distance a burning bush. As he walks toward the bush to get a closer look, God’s voice audibly calls him by name “Moses!” and when Moses replies “Here am I” the voice says:
“Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5
The conversation continues, but we need to stop right here. Most of the time in reading this story, we focus on the awesomeness of a burning bush. But to create such a spectacle, God must have had a really important message to deliver and I believe that every single word of it is critically important.
The very first instruction: Moses had to take off his sandals and become barefoot. The sand on which he stood was identical to the sand that he had been walking on – there was no visible difference. This is an excellent demonstration of the variance between God’s perspective and our own. Although this example of different perspective is regarding sand, it is a powerful concept that I believe is introduced first in this narrative on purpose. God is saying and showing, before anything else, He does not see things the way we see them. You see something as simple, and as the same. God sees a completely different reality: the next bit of sand, which would look, feel, smell, and even taste the same to Moses’ human inspection, is completely different and God sees it, knows it and is asking Moses to take His word for it. From what historians tell us about where Moses was, the desert he was walking in was approximately 20,000 square miles of sand. The most learned scientist who could examine the sand with the latest technology would come to the same conclusion as a child…that sand, where Moses stood and then where he stepped, was exactly the same. But God said otherwise, why? Was he speaking figuratively? No! Because where his presence is, there is a difference. It is unmistakable and very real. Our limited and flawed human perspective does not compare to God’s perfect, omnipotent vision. There are realms that are not detectable to our limited senses. So God’s opening sentence, in a conversation to present Moses his destiny and high purpose, is about perspective. Specifically: reverence for perspective.
God sees things differently and can identify things that are imperceptible to us. More importantly, while He can see things that we don’t, he wants us to acknowledge that we trust His vision better than our own. Why make that point first, before the rest of the conversation? It was an outward act of acknowledgement and obedience to the unseen and incomprehensible. Before hearing what God had to say – which was going to be powerful – he needed to shift to God’s perspective. He first had to take for truth God’s perspective rather than his own. Once he did that, God was able to show and teach him incredible things about his future and he was able to receive it.
The continuation of the conversation with Moses contains lots of powerful nuggets which I will discuss in future posts. But this one word, Perspective, is what intially planted itself in my brain. The concept of God’s perspective being different – possibly opposite – of my own confounded and intrigued me. I wanted to reject any other perspective than my own, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this one couldn’t be ignored.
The significance of God’s perspective is not confined to old testament encounters in the desert. Much of the book of James is devoted to perspective. James is addressing believers and encouraging them to use God’s perspective, rather than their own, in every setting and situation. He specifies using God’s perspective to view yourself, to view others, and to view your circumstances. The very first verse in this book, after his introduction of himself is: “Consider it wholly joyful, my bretheren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter trials of any sort…” (James 1:2 AMP). Now that is a serious call to change your perspective about everything. He fills each of the five chapters elucidating a different area where we can apply God’s perspective. Chapter one discusses our perspective of ourselves – see yourself not as you look in the mirror, but as you look when viewed through the “perfect law of liberty”. Chapter two confronts our perspective of others – he charges that judging other by their outward appearance (whether for better or worse) is a sin, and that equal mercy towards all without regard for what we see in them or on them is the only way to use God’s perspective and follow His law. Chapter three challenges the traditional perspective of wisdom. Whereas the world would judge wisdom by lofty words, it is actually demonstrated by meekness, and cannot be found on earth, but true wisdom only comes from above – it is pure, peaceable, gentle and easy. In chapter four James reveals how flawed is our human perspective of destiny, we naively say “tomorrow I am going to do such and such” without having any clue of what tomorrow holds. He reminds us of the obvious: only God knows what we will or won’t, can or can’t accomplish tomorrow. The final chapter is about our perspective of riches and success and the final example of proper perspective that James leaves us with is the life of Job. James’ formula for perfection is: Trials work patience and patience works out perfection, so Trials = Perfection. Special is Special. There’s no way that makes sense, until you have abandoned earthly, human perspective.
To help you begin this process of changing your perspective, you can use this prayer as a model for your own conversation with God:
“Father, only you know all that I see with my human perspective and the affect it has on my heart, soul and mind. Lord help me to become aware that you see my situation differently. I open myself to your influence and perspective. Thank you that I don’t have to settle for what I see. I welcome your renewal of my mind and am confident that whatever trials you allow are actually working out perfection in my life. Thank you.”