“How are the fall colors?” my friend in Virginia asked the other night. She is coming to see me in Michigan in a few weeks and hoping to be in time to see the vibrant colors of our fall.
“We haven’t had a frost yet,” I said. “It is actually quite warm here—it’s in the 70’s.”
“What?” I asked.
“It is in the 70’s here, too,” she said, “and I was going to say how cool it is.”
Perspective. Same temperature but different conclusion.
I think so much of what goes wrong in relationships is because we jump to conclusions without seeking clarification or understanding another’s perspective.
Yesterday, I facilitated a retreat session for a group of local volunteers. My topic was theological reflection, a process that helps look at things from God’s perspective, that invites God into a situation and asks, “How does God invite me to see this person or situation?”
In preparation, I spent some time practicing theological reflection A friend from whom I am feeling disconnected came to mind, so I asked God, “What are you inviting me to learn from this disconnect?”
When I open myself to this conversation with God, I usually hear God ask me to love unconditionally, to forgive without limit and to let go. God invites me to see the person or situation from a stance of compassion and mercy. No matter how hurtful something might have been, when I look at it from God’s perspective, it looks different.
From God’s perspective, the person who hurt me is loved as much as I am. God invites me to see that the hurt was a result of my unrealistic expectations and/or that person’s limitations or brokenness. Theological reflection helps me understand the Biblical injunction to love my enemies and to pray for my persecutors (Matthew 5:44).
During the retreat session yesterday, I asked the volunteers to recall a specific incident which showed that their expectations had not been met, a time when they thought, “I didn’t expect that” or “That is not how I imagined it.” Unmet expectations often lead to disillusionment, and disillusionment can lead to negative feelings and actions.
Once they had an incident in mind, I asked them to invite God into the situation, to describe to God what happened and to sit with God and look at the person or situation through God’s eyes.
Reframing the situation from God’s perspective helps to see a bigger picture. My unmet expectations then become more about me instead of about the people or situation that let me down. Changing my expectations—or at least being more aware of them—can change my perspective and help to me understand people and events in a different way. When I see things from God’s perspective, I can more easily let go of hurt and anger. I can be more open to compassion and mercy, less judgmental and more forgiving. I can move toward freedom.