There’s always a temptation when writing a blog, to publish pieces just for the sake of keeping on top of it especially after a long period of time. And so, I pondered and pondered -for quite a long time actually – on what exactly I wanted to communicate through my next piece; and then it suddenly came to me in one statement a Sunday afternoon while sipping jasmine tea. (How picturesque right?) It is “Reverse perspective.” I will explain.
It has always proved saddening to me that some people of faith can believe in an all-powerful and omnipresent God and yet still not feel that they don’t experience Him moving and working in their everyday life. Maybe they don’t have the eyes to see it. So, I thought perhaps it’s all about reversing the narrative here; a renewed perspective.
Jesus often spoke about a condition where people with perfect vision were unable to see – “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:13, NIV) In order to unsettle and heal this spiritual myopia, Jesus spoke to his listeners in parables – real life, often vocationally based, stories that were meant to wake them up to the true nature of the God who was standing right in front of them.
To clearly exemplify my theory of reverse perspective we are going to delve into the topic of icons. Bear with me.
The first ever Christian art I encountered was the Holy Trinity by Andrei Rublev. The most fascinating thing is through icons, and I’m not talking about idolatry here, but the true appreciation of the concept of icons, this is where reverse perspective is truly exemplified. For those that aren’t aware of the concept of icons, an icon(s)is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, predominantly with origins from the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodoxy, and certain Eastern Catholic churches. The most commonly painted icon subjects include Christ, Mary, saints and/or angels. I have always been intrigued by the concept of icons; mostly piqued through philosophy and theology – created things through which we can see, hear or experience God
However, when I first came across this piece of art I’d wondered why this icon seemed so aesthetically off! I’d just stare at the painting and think like this is just all wrong. The chairs, bodies and footrests all appear as though they are drawn improperly. I thought okay, maybe the icon painters have got their perspective all wrong. But the more I pondered and studied it the more I realised maybe I was the one who wasn’t seeing straight!
The author Father Gabriel Bunge introduces us to the reverse perspective of the icon with these words;
“Icon painting makes use of its own principles. It consciously submits to its own rules and thus renounces much of what is essential for [worldly] painting. So, it rejects what the world considers to be the natural, or central perspective, which issues from the standpoint of the beholder, and chooses what can be considered the unartistic reverse perspective, which forces the beholder to surrender his own standpoint, his sense of distance. Likewise, neither are shapes and objects illuminated from outside, rather they have their own source of light within themselves.”
I think that Bunge puts into words fantastically what I can’t, on the true essence of icons and how reverse perspective shines!
Here’s something great – Think about the paradoxes of the faith – in order to be first you need to be last, if you want to find life you need to lose it, God accomplished good things through pain and brokenness, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. There is so much about Christianity that appears to be upside down or backwards. But now, as I think about this idea of reverse perspective, I wonder if we as human beings are the ones who are upside down and backwards…. Some might disagree but nonetheless a thought to ponder over.
But I was certainly left wondering if I knew anything about reality at all! Like mind blown.
I think for most of our lives we’ve been unthinkingly interpreting our experiences from our perspective, as through we are the centre of the universe and no wonder sometimes people feel they are unable to fully see or understand what God is doing all around us!
We need to surrender our own standpoint – change the narrative by making God the sole author of our story continually every day. This is something we all need to do if we want to know God more in our relationships, at work and general every day. We need to realize that we’re not the beholders; we’re the beheld. We’re not the seers; we’re the seen. The ultimate value of the things we accomplish in our lives are not based on our merit, but on God’s.
God is the one who sees. He recognizes everything for what it really is. God doesn’t fit into our lives or work or community; we fit into his! We’re all protagonists in a meta-story that He is writing!
We need to have our perspectives reversed to get this. – Romans 12:2 talks perfectly about the constant renewal of our minds to know what is good and pleasing and perfect to God.
If we want to experience God more and more in our lives we need to get a glimpse of how he’s seeing things. With God’s help, your perceptions, and how you judge your experience of life can change.
Maybe, from God’s perspective, a bad day with a huge failure could be the most productive ever – eternally speaking. Perhaps the humbling was crucial in terms of waking you up to the nature of his grace – how it’s not based on your production. You’re made in the image of a God who wilfully made himself less, and went through hardship, to love and serve the world best. God is humility. Experiences of humility give us eyes to see this fact.
Everyone has their own perspective on life and the way we view things instinctively. Honestly, I hold my hands high and say that I’m very erratic when it comes to perspective sometimes. My first instinct is to over analyse and not read from God’s narrative. I write this post from a sort of personal place. Sometimes we all struggle with certain flaws in our lives and secretly they can honestly kick us to the curb! Living with a blood disorder which 100% the worst can leave me in some pretty rubbish circumstances half the time and in those times my instinct is not to think from God’s perspective whatsoever! But one of my favourite quotes by Socrates is ‘an unexamined life is not worth living” and the sentiment rings true! We should continually examine and re-evaluate our thinking – the way we view life is so important and the correlation between that and our actions will be evident.
Life really is something to be in awe of. There’s always a beauty amongst its chaos and my goal is to continually everyday help people see that.
Till next time,