“Who wants to go to town?” Mom asked as she loaded a new roll of film in her camera and stuck a notepad in her purse. I was the first to exclaim, “ME!!”
Mom worked for the newspaper. The editor wanted her to write a “human interest” story, and he needed it completed in time for the print setter to get it in Thursday’s paper. She needed to interview one of the older residents in town, and then type her story at the newspaper office. Johnny and I were allowed to go to the playground at the park while she worked. I was excited. I loved playing at the park. There were almost always other kids to play with, and an hour passed quickly as we played on the merry-go-round, teeter-totters, swings, and tall sliding board.
I saw a few cars leaving town as we approached, and I had a sinking feeling for them. I supposed their fun was done now, and it was time for them to go back to the farm.
“Awe, I feel sorry for those people,” I said. “Those people are already done in town and we are just getting here. Our fun is just beginning!”
“How do you know they don’t live in town, and they get to go visit someone in the country?”
It was a new perspective that I hadn’t thought of before. My whole perspective was from the lens through which I had experienced life.
I was 15 years old when I surrendered my life to Jesus. I immediately recognized the Lord to be a loving merciful Father, just like He is described in the Bible. I understood Him to be King, ruler of the universe. It was easy to see Him as a personable God, one that cared for me and had plans for me personally. I easily understood He was one to fear, revere, and love. More than anything, I wanted to please Him.
It was easy to view God this way. That was my lens because my dad was a loving and fair father. He was a pillar in the church and our community, a Sunday School teacher, a member of several local organizations including the school board and church council. He was the one to fear if we did something wrong. He was the one who put his foot down when my room was too messy, or I was disobedient. His five children knew the meaning of a stern face and pointed finger in church if we were misbehaving. I wanted to please my father more than anything else.
Living on a farm in rural Montana, in what is considered the “most remote place in the United States,” it was easy to believe God sought me out individually. That was my lens. The competition wasn’t that great for God’s undivided attention, after all, since I lived in a sparsely populated rural area. I went on to college in Bozeman, MT, and for the first time I saw the fieldhouse packed for a Johnny Cash concert. It was my first realization that there were a lot of people in the world. I still believed that God knew me personally, and even the hairs on my head were numbered, because the Bible said so.
The first real test to my “lens” was Christmastime in Haiti. The streets were so packed with people, that one could hardly move through the throngs to get to a vendor. Surrounded by a million Haitians, I suddenly felt lost and very alone. I followed in my husband’s wake as he forged through the sea of people. I held on to his hand so we wouldn’t get separated. We were looking for a gift for the missionary couple we worked with. Surrounded by a million people, I wondered how God could possibly hear my thoughts with so many others to hear. Did He really care for me? Personally? Was the message we had brought to Haiti true; that God cared for each of them individually?
I realized that’s why Jesus had to withdraw to a quiet place. He cared for the crowds, but in maintaining His personal connection with God the Father, He had to get away.
In our western first-world culture, many things in the Bible seem foreign. We read the Bible through the lens of our modern experience. We don’t live in a pedestrian society. The story of Jesus interacting with the people he passed seems strange. How about the crowd ready to stone the woman caught in idolatry, or Zacchaeus in the sycamore tree?
I lived in Haiti for a couple of years and gained a new lens. It brought so many Bible stories to life. I witnessed a crowd of people chasing a thief. I watched the merchants measuring out a can of rice pressed down, shaken together and running over, and other merchants trying to make huge gaps in a measure of potatoes, not pressed down or shaken together at all. I saw women meeting at the fountain to gather water for their household, and we learned not to frequent the roof patio of our mission house because the young maidens of the house next door bathed in the courtyard. We knew that’s how David got in trouble with Bathsheba, so we weren’t about to tempt fate.
What kind of lens do you have? If you had a charmed life with a loving mother and father, and brothers and sisters who loved Jesus and each other, it’s easy to read the Bible and see God as that loving Father. But most people didn’t have that.
Do you suppose God’s desire is for you to see Him through an unblemished lens?
The Bible says, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the LORD.” Isaiah 55:8
Our hearts are tainted by the world around us. God wants us to bathe in His word, bathe in his presence. Ask Him for His lens. Read the scriptures and learn what a good Father He is. Meditate on the goodness of our God, and allow Him to heal you from the wounds this world has imposed on your spirit.
Psalm 51:10-12 | Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with thy free spirit.
Ezekiel 36:26 | And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.