SEE­ING CLEARLY

Try­ing to see your­self as God does of­fers re­fresh­ing shift in per­spec­tive

Calgary Herald - - BOOKS - SHAUNA CALD­WELL

As the tem­per­a­ture drops, it is chal­leng­ing to wear both a mask and glasses. Step­ping into a warm build­ing, my vi­sion is in­stantly ob­scured by a foggy film. Fear­ing I will mis­judge my steps and trip, I grab a crum­pled Kleenex to wipe off the icy fog. I'm frus­trated to dis­cover that a trail of lint and dirt has smeared across the lenses. Now I've made things worse. I want to see clearly, but with all my ef­forts, all I've man­aged to do is fur­ther dis­tort my per­spec­tive.

In these times of loss and con­se­quent change, it can be a real chore to get a clear view. It is nat­u­ral to un­der­take a search for mean­ing. Self-ex­am­i­na­tion and ques­tions about God are front of mind. My thought life and my self-talk can tie me up in end­less knots. I try in vain to get a clear point of ref­er­ence.

Flip­ping this on its head, I pro­pose it is worth­while to ask what God's per­spec­tive is about you. This is an in­cred­i­ble an­chor-point when I feel bruised, aim­less and worn out. I take my thoughts cap­tive and dis­cover what God thinks of me. It's a re­fresh­ing sur­prise!

When I feel aban­doned, God says I am cho­sen. Go­ing through pain in loss, I can feel all alone — aban­doned. God seems a no-show; I think I'm not im­por­tant enough. My old lenses tell me God is not in­ter­ested in me, but God says that He chose me be­fore the foun­da­tions of the world (Eph­e­sians 1:4). Be­fore He formed me in the womb, He knew me (Psalms 139:16). He's right there with me. He won't let me down; He won't leave me (Deuteron­omy 31:6). My life cir­cum­stances are not ac­cu­rate in­di­ca­tors of God be­ing ab­sent or in­dif­fer­ent. If I am cho­sen by God, then I can have the con­fi­dence that He is ab­so­lutely more than in­ter­ested in me. I am cho­sen.

When I feel use­less, God says I have pur­pose. Go­ing through loss can leave me think­ing that I am not good enough. I don't have value or pur­pose. My scratched lens tells me that God doesn't care about me. God says that His plans for me in­volve a fu­ture and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11)! My mind of­ten has to in­form my heart of this fact. This en­ables me not to waste my pain. I have pur­pose.

When I feel shame, God says I am loved. Reel­ing af­ter loss can leave me think­ing I'm an ut­ter mess! I feel bogged down with re­grets. I get caught on the tread­mill of should'ves, could'ves and would'ves. My fogged up lenses cause me to be­lieve God can't help me. God says that He has loved me with an ev­er­last­ing love (Jeremiah 31:3). This is the good news that I need to hear; it grips me and lifts me up out of the hole I'm in. My cur­rent cir­cum­stances might cause me to feel like it's the end of my life story. How­ever, the re­al­ity is, it's only the end of one chap­ter. I am loved.

When I feel re­jected, God says I am ac­cepted. Af­ter loss, I can end up feel­ing that I'm in too deep, and there is no way out. If I've felt cu­mu­la­tively aban­doned, use­less

and shamed, my smudged lenses tell me that God doesn't un­der­stand the com­plex­i­ties of my life. How­ever, God says we are ac­cepted un­con­di­tion­ally. Who­ever comes to Him, He will not cast out (John 6:37). Through Je­sus, God reached down to us, and He iden­ti­fies with our hu­man strug­gles — our suf­fer­ing. I am ac­cepted.

When I feel guilt, God says I am for­given. When ex­pe­ri­enc­ing grief emo­tions, it can leave me feel­ing that I'm in this ter­ri­ble place of sor­row be­cause I'm a bad per­son. My black­ened lenses tell me that God is pun­ish­ing me. It is a false no­tion that God is a cos­mic “Thor,”

poised to smite us with a sledge­ham­mer every time we mess up. God says that while we were un­able to help our­selves — stuck in our sins and our im­per­fec­tion — Je­sus died for us (Ro­mans 5:8). His death and res­ur­rec­tion make the way for Him to of­fer me the gift of for­give­ness. As I choose to ac­cept His gift, I am for­given.

Rather than stay­ing stuck in pain, God wants to give our lives trac­tion. You are cho­sen by God. You have a pur­pose that only you can ful­fil in this life. You are ac­cepted. You are loved, no mat­ter what. God is not mad at you — He's mad about you! He of­fers His gift

of for­give­ness.

Is your vi­sion a blur? Per­haps you need a new set of lenses to see your­self as God sees you. When you see clearly, you can have hope. This is the lat­est in­stal­ment in a series on grief by writer Shauna Cald­well, who lost her twin sons in an ac­ci­dent in 2016. Her pieces are ap­pear­ing on the Faith page of the Cal­gary Herald on the last Sat­ur­day of the month; the last in­stal­ment will be on Nov. 28.

To read a Hal­loween-themed ar­ti­cle from Cald­well, go to www.evan­jor­dan.ca. Cald­well also of­fers a note of thanks to Neil Parker for his as­sis­tance with this series.

FILES

It is worth­while to ask what God's per­spec­tive is of you, Shauna Cald­well writes.

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