I (Jennifer) was hesitant to write June’s post when the topic was selected, if I can be completely transparent. My first concern was which person I would choose to write about. After some team brainstorming, I realized I had an opportunity to reflect on how far I’d come in my thinking. The question caused me to wrestle with the process of an interpersonal perspective shift, and I’m grateful to have worked through it far enough to share some ideas.
I, like nearly everyone I know, have had the chance to do slices of life with all kinds of characters. Some were genuinely kind, and I have sweet memories. Some people were rough and raw. A good number were aggravating or irritating. A handful were uniquely troublesome. I loved my favorites, but this post wants to be about the difficult relationships, the people who may have done real damage in some cases.
How does God change our perspective about someone else? Simply put, this will take time. We need to pause. Sometimes for a long while. More than once.
For me, it all began with a sentence—
So God created man in His own image; He created him in the image of God; He created them male and female. Genesis 1:27 CSB
These words made perfect sense in the context of two people created at the beginning of humanity’s timeline. I found it easy to imagine my favorite friends conceived in the mind of God and carefully designed by his hands. But those other people, what about them? Sometimes it felt nearly impossible to view them positively. Admittedly, it’s a challenge, but here’s what I’ve learned about the process of the interpersonal perspective shift.
Last month I saw the Vincent van Gogh Bedrooms exhibit in Chicago with friends. (Two things I love: girl time and creative arts!) Vincent—troubled soul that he was—is one of my favorite artists. His use of color and bold brush strokes captivate me. I giggle at his thick paint layers, thinking he really could have used a friend to help him in the resource management department. But that was his signature style. I’m drawn to his wiggly strokes and recognize his artwork simply by the strokes and his creative vision.
Bear with me. Comparing Vincent to the Creator of the universe has problems, but I couldn’t help it. The connection seemed natural.
The Creator’s artwork includes everything from atoms and molecules to black holes. Somewhere in the middle is each one of us. We are the canvases displaying intentional brush strokes and unique image composition. The Creator embeds significant purpose in each masterpiece—creating a special vision for each one.
“You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” Revelation 4:11
Each one of us was conceived in the mind of God with significant purpose, and our lives are intricately woven into a plan every step of the way. All of who we are displays the power of the Artist who created us.
That said, the beauty of the masterpiece has been marred by exposure to the world we live in. This world is not a perfect place, and it has left marks on each one of us in different ways.
Imagine a vandal managed to sneak into Vincent’s Bedrooms exhibit. Somehow the guards misread the intentions of the guest’s close examination and slow pauses. The hand that seemed to be digging for a sketch pad actually grabbed a can of fire engine red spray paint! Security sprang to action, but they were too late. Vincent’s blues, greens, browns, and yellows were completely obscured beneath a layer of red. What a shame! (And what a long time the vandal will spend in a small bedroom with a locked door!)
So, what’s the outcome of the vandalized Vincent? There is an authentic masterpiece painted by my favorite artist, but the only thing resembling it’s original state is the relief of the brush strokes. We might be horrified at the thought of the vandalism on Vincent’s work, but it’s not different than the Creator’s masterpieces in this world.
When I thought about the difficult characters in my life, I was reminded that they were masterpieces straight from the studio of God. That was an important first step!
“Wait! This person behaved badly, and I got caught in the crossfire. You don’t know what this person did to me!” you say.
Yes, a lot of people walk around free, seemingly without consequences.
I found a second step was necessary. For just a few minutes, I tried to withhold emotions and judgment. I just looked at the masterpiece, hoping to catch a glimpse of the brushstrokes that lay beneath the thick layer of damage to it. I wrote “Vision” and “Vandalized” at the head of two columns. When I looked at any person in my life, I hunted for qualities in them that were part of the Creator’s master work.
For one person, I listed the vision of who they were intended to be:
Generous with gifts
The list was difficult at first because I focused on the warped version of good things: intelligence used to embarrass or shame others, an excellent work ethic shaping a workaholic, or the purchase process becoming all-consuming and leading to greed, obsession, or “champagne tastes on a soda pop paycheck.” That’s what happens when good things are misused, or when we won’t submit to biblical wisdom or the leading of the Holy Spirit. Vandalism.
Can you find the beautiful, unique brush strokes hiding beneath the thoughts, words, or actions reflecting life experience that changed everything, and not necessarily for the good? Take some time, and you’ll see it can be done. The difficult character in your life has qualities placed in them by God.
Do you know what happens when you begin to see the vision beneath the vandalism? You begin to think about the real person under there, the masterpiece that has been through marring, scarring experiences. Suddenly, God can change your perspective on someone else. When your perspective changes, maybe the relationship can, too.
Thanks for reading. Give this process a shot. See what happens when you begin to make Vision and Vandalism lists. If you do, let me know how it goes. I’d love to hear about your process!
Scripture sourced from biblestudytools.com (Crosswalk.com)