It can be humbling for me to realize how limited my understanding is. Sometimes I think I’m seeing things clearly, that I really have a grip on what’s happening in my life. There are those moments when everything seems to be flowing smoothly, and I’m advancing toward my goals. At other times, I feel lost and confused, uncertain about where to go next. In the face of life’s obstacles, I often question whether I’m on the right track after all.
It is comforting to realize that I am not the only one who feels this way. We are all bound up in our own human limitations. Sometimes we get it wrong. And even when we are on the right track, our vision is still only partial. Nobody has a “God’s-eye view” on life. Each time I pass through these ups and downs, I feel less certain that I can rely on my personal perceptions to guide me in life. My understanding in any particular moment is so colored by my own limitations; it’s hard to know whether I’m seeing things as they truly are.
Despite our limited understanding, we can gain broader perspective if we’re willing to wait and listen. One way to do this is by slowing down, paying attention to the rhythms and patterns of our own lives. When we’re euphoric, we can remember that excitement doesn’t last forever. In the same way, our periods of darkness are ultimately fleeting, too.
We can also gain perspective by opening our lives to one another. I can share with my friends about the way I am viewing the world right now, and they can tell me what they see. This process is especially powerful if my friends are also committed to seeking the truth. Together, we can evaluate a situation from many more vantage points than we could ever do by ourselves. Best of all, we can engage in shared listening to the Holy Spirit. No one has seen God, but when we love one another, he dwells among us and helps us to be faithful.
Another helpful tool in finding truth beyond our momentary highs and lows is to seek the wisdom of our spiritual ancestors. The beloved community of past generations has left us a legacy of rich, spirit-inspired writings that we can draw on today. The Bible is chief among these writings, bearing as it does the authentic witness of ancient Israel and the early Church. By immersing ourselves in the testimony of those faithful men and women who have gone before, we hedge against the pitfalls of more time-bound thinking.
What are ways that you have found to broaden your perspective and get a better understanding of God’s work in your life? How do you navigate the emotional highs and lows of daily living, avoiding both mania and despair? How have you been humbled, encouraged to seek the perspective of others as you seek to encounter life as it really is?