Have you guys ever seen those black-and-white drawings that display an optical illusion of two different pictures? If you look at it one way, you see one picture and if you look at it another way it shows a very different picture.
The first one that comes to my mind is of an old woman…or a young woman, depending on your perspective. Another shows either a candlestick or a silhouette of two faces staring at each other. I have a whole book of these optical illusions and I take the book to work to use with my middle schoolers. Most of the kids can see both perspectives, but some of them can’t. In all honesty, some of the pictures are a lot harder to decipher than others.
But perspective does make a difference!
A big difference.
I think my lovely Blue Ridge Mountains are enormous and grand, but if I ask author Beth Vogt or Casey Herringshaw about their Rocky Mountains, their perspective on what big mountains look like would be very different than mine. REALLY different!!
Perspective also changes depending on the relationship. My 20-year-old son is viewed differently by his college professors than he is by his peers, his siblings, and then by me. The relationship I have with him changes the perspective.
OK, so why am I talking about perspective?
April is Autism Awareness month.
As some of you may know, by day I am a speech-language pathologist who works primarily with children on the autism spectrum. I love working with “my kids”. Lots of times I feel like they teach me more than I teach them. They’re tender hearts, their unique views of the world, their perseverance against odds that are tremendous and complex and confusing?
Many times, when people hear the word Autism, a vision comes to mind of a child who speaks very little or not at all, who is rigid, unemotional, throws tantrums, has a hard time learning, isn’t probably going to have any friends, and definitely not a job, and let’s not even talk about an actual family with kids.
There may be some kids both on and off the spectrum who would fit that description… But not the majority. Those would be the extreme minority.
Let’s try a different perspective. What about kids who are extremely honest, even to the point of saying things that appear rude sometimes. Kids who value what is good and right and have a hard time figuring out why people would want to do something bad to another person. Kids who accept people because they’re people…not a socio-economic state, or race, or sex. Just as they are. Kids who see far enough outside the box to try things typical folks are too afraid to try.
Kids who laugh unhindered, hug like you’re their favorite person, crave connections with others even though they may not always understand how to get them, grieve their mistakes with such penitence, and live life authentically.
Now that’s a different perspective.
Those kids sound pretty cool, don’t they?
Do “my kids” get hyper-focused? Do they completely misread the social cues (or not read them at all)? Do they blurt out inappropriate things sometimes? Do they ‘lose it’ in a large way that may require others to help them find their way back to calm? Yes, yes, yes, and yes.
But they also inspire me to open up my heart. They astound me with their amazing passions and focus. They humble me with their questions that see beyond the externals and superfluous. They remind me of the importance of relationship and the need to see life from a different point of view.
They have weaknesses.
They have strengths.
We all do.
And if we wore our struggles as obviously as these kids wear theirs, we’d want other people to have a positive perspective about us too. We’d want them to try and see beyond the weaknesses, the struggles, to the heart.
God takes a different perspective.
The Bible says, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7b)
Thankfully, if we belong to Christ, he also sees us through the lens of His Son’s sacrifice – we’re seen a beautiful and right and good. What a perspective!!!
Life is too hard and too short to view people through the gray lens of judgment and negativity.
Just like in those black-and-white drawings I share with my middle schoolers, there are other perspectives. We may see both of them, but we get to choose which one we plan to focus on.