When I am free of others’ expectations, of cultural norms, and of my own tunnel-visioned agenda, my perspective is able to expand. My world grows bigger, and my options increase. I am no longer hemmed in by false boundaries.
The unnerving part of such freedom is that I can no longer rely on clear rules and fixed standards in areas of my life that God has set free for not simply good results but the best results. It’s not enough to live up to parents’ expectations or conform to conventional wisdom about money, career paths, or parenthood. A person who grows in grace and knowledge must learn to discern her own path and see with new eyes.
Karen Beattie’s life did not follow the trajectory she had hoped and had been conditioned to expect. She had lived in faith and done her best, but the life she shared with her husband was upended by financial reversals and infertility. She knew that Jesus promised abundant life, but what does abundance look like when unemployment continues for months and when possibilities for parenthood fall through one by one?
One of my favorite chapters in Karen’s book, Rock-Bottom Blessings, is titled “Help Me to See”—all about a widening perspective.
Then I thought back on the past few years, since I had got married, and about our long struggle to become parents, to settle in our careers and become financially stable.
I thought about how David and I have grown closer together in the struggle. I remembered the look on his face when he earned his master’s degree. And how, after a scary job loss, I ended up in a job I like ten times better than my previous one. I remembered when I have had to totally trust that God’s timing might be better than mine. I’ve had to let go of control. And then I realized how much I had grown and changed.
Maybe God was there after all. I was seeing the Ghost God in the Polaroids of my life—there, in the background, showing up in ways I had never realized.
Maybe God was here with me now, too, even though I couldn’t see him clearly. Maybe he was lurking in the shadows, waiting to be found in a snapshot sometime in the future.
As I contemplated all these things, I slowly became more aware of everything around me. I started noticing small things, beautiful things. I started being grateful for a sunny day. Or the way the moon glowed over the city on my walk to the train in the evening. I started seeing God in conversations I had with hurting friends, or in chance encounters that began to feel like something other than random. “Ghost God” was showing up. Or I was getting better at seeing him. I was seeing beauty everywhere, even in the ugliest places. I wasn’t dying of cancer. But in some ways I was dying, was being forced to let go of so many things.
. . . I was slowly beginning to understand that abundance had something to do with this third eye. Seeing had to do with feeling the profound joy and sadness of life. It had to do with being alive—and awake.
- How has your vision changed over the years, in seeing spiritual realities?
- What smaller visions—expectations, standards—have you had to give up, and how did that go?
- Are there still ways of seeing that limit your spiritual growth, perspectives determined too much by outside forces or by your own insistence on a particular outcome?