The roar of the crowd was deafening, waves of Union Jacks created a sea of red white and blue, and the Princes William and Harry were on their feet whooping and hollering with the rest of the crowd, well, doing only as much whooping and hollering as royal decorum would allow. Meanwhile down on the floor the athletes alternated between staring at the scoreboard in disbelief, hugging and slapping each other, and waving at the boisterous crowd.
Great Britain’s men’s gymnastics team had just won the bronze medal in the team competition at the 2012 Olympic Games, and the predominantly British crowd was going wild! No gymnastics team from Great Britain had even qualified for a gymnastics team final since 1924, before Queen Elizabeth, now of James Bond fame, was born. Now here they were at home, hosting the Olympic Games and they had not only qualified, they would be on the podium. Bronze, not gold was the medal, but you wouldn’t know that from the celebratory pandemonium in the arena, because truly, it is all about perspective.
My Oxford American dictionary (don’t even ask about that literary identity crisis) defines perspective as:
“A particular attitude toward or way of regarding something.” and, “True understanding of the relative importance of things; a sense of proportion.”
Perspective can alter your mood, influence your behavior, and change the course of your life. Perspective causes ten people to see the same incident and give ten different accounts of what happened. Perspective believes 50 really is the new 30. Perspective makes your teenagers think they know everything while you are secretly praying, “I hope you end up having a child just like you.” Perspective can convince you to value things above people and that ‘all that glitters is gold’. And perspective can make us believe God is just mean sometimes, trying to suck every bit of joy out of our life, when in fact He loves us perfectly, and is trying to protect us, make us better, and give us abundant, eternal life.
Which brings me to my old friend Job, whose very name conjures up images of undeserved suffering and loss. The Bible tells us that his story actually begins with God doing a little show and tell about how proud He was of Job, and the devil responding by daring Him to remove all the ‘perks’ Job enjoyed in order to test his loyalty. Which also brings me to a standing agreement I am trying to negotiate with God; that regardless of how proud He is of me, or how well He may think I am doing, that He would please agree not to have any conversations with the devil about me or my life because that just does not seem to end well for the human subject of that kind of dialogue….or does it?
A closer examination of the story reveals that at the root of Job’s ‘righteousness’ was a distorted perspective.
His sons were the consummate ‘party animals’ long before the term existed, and would regularly take turns hosting over-the-top shindigs that lasted for days, at the end of which,
“Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, ‘It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.’ This Job did regularly.” Job 1:5
From Job’s perspective, he, not the boys, was responsible for covering their sin. Then as things began to go from bad to worse we get another glimpse inside his heart.
“For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.” Job 3:25
Job lived his life doing right because from his perspective God was just waiting to beat him over the head if he ever messed up. He lived in fear of what God would do to him and his family if he did not measure up, or live up to righteous expectations. Insecurity and fear drove him to do everything he could to win the gold medal for holiness, because getting the bronze would mean failure and punishment.
You have to give Job credit for holding it together for a loooooong time; never saying a bad thing about God all the while his wife taunts and nags, and his ‘friends’ accuse him of being guilty of some secret sin. Yet God continued to allow the intensity of suffering to build until, near the end of the story, Job just blows up and lets God have it in chapters 29 through 31. For the first time, he is completely honest with God about his righteous life, how he really feels about all that happened to him, and accuses God of being unfair and letting him down, essentially saying, “You owe me a good life filled with blessing; after all I have done for You.”
Well, allrighty then…now we see the perspective problem. Pride in performance, along with insecurity and fear is guaranteed to distort our perspective.
God did not strike Job dead for his insolence. I think He was relieved that the man was finally being honest, and gave him the only prescription that will clear up a distorted perspective, a healthy dose of truth. Finally, Job had a new perspective.
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eyes see you; therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:6
Yeah. That’s what I thought you said.
“Now the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” Job 42:12
So here’s the thing, when God allows life to get hard and you’re tempted to just focus on winning some imaginary gold medal for goodness, accept the truth that His highest priority for our lives is a close, intimate, and healthy relationship with Him. Let that truth continue to adjust your perspective, until at last, you look through new lenses and can see the work He is trying to do in your life, and then…just live the thing.