Pictures Don’t Lie, Our Perception Does

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 25, 2017 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

As uncomfortable as an honest look in the mirror is, doing so is good for us. Recently, under pressure from several deadlines, when everything seemed to be going well, I was dealt setbacks: special orders for pottery that looked beautiful and then cracked while drying, a roofing nail in my front tire, technology that stopped working, an air compressor that stopped working, managers at work that were not responding, and on top of this (and other random setbacks) the normal chaos of family and three children. It’s on days like this when I am confronted with the cracks in my resolve to trust God in all things.

Winston Churchill is portrayed in the drama “The Crown” as having hated the portrait painting of him commissioned by the government just before his retirement. He hated it because it made him look weak, weary, and decayed. And as he argued with the artist, the artist replied, “There is no vanity in this art, no pride, no bias; it is impartial. If you see age, it’s because there is age, if tiredness it’s because there is tiredness, if decay it’s because there’s is decay. You can hide these things from yourself, but they are still there.” And as Winston slumped into the chair with the painting behind him and the artist left, the camera centered on Winston with the portrait just over his shoulder. The likeness of the painting was spectacularly identical and revealing.

Perhaps for many of us, the moments when we are least in control and least able to solve issues are when we are most exposed for the broken creatures that we are. No matter how much I thrive on challenges, if I pile up too many, I slip, then fall, then make a mess. I’m sure I am not the only one who struggles with this. Maybe your triggers are different, maybe they are the same. The truth of the matter is that when we are pushed beyond our sense of control, who or what we trust in comes to the surface. And if we trust our own ability or some ideology that has no power to influence the situation, the frustration boils out. It doesn’t matter what image we try to maintain; the truth of our character is seen.

Take a moment and read the book of Job (pronounced ‘jobe’) chapters 1-2. Focus on the conversations around when he loses everything, and then loses his health. I cannot pretend that I have ever experienced loss in the way that Job did. He had no control over it, and could have chosen to be angry with God. He could have chosen to listen to his wife, who doesn’t seem like the compassionate sort, based on her comments, but maybe she thought she was next. Instead, I am amazed at Job’s first reaction. His VERY FIRST reaction to the loss of his wealth, his livelihood, and his children is to bless God (Job 1:21).

When his health is taken and his wife tells him to “curse God, and die,” his response is to correct his wife and remind her that God is in control. In fact, he says to her, “You speak as a foolish woman would speak. What? Should we receive good at the hand of God and not receive evil?” (Job 1:9-10) Let that sink in for a moment.

I make a mess of my life and my relationships every time I take things into my own hands and persist in a direction that God has not established for me. I make a mess when I face circumstances bigger than my influence and then act as if God owes me a good outcome. I make a mess when I take my predispositions and overlay them on God and insist that He and His Word conform to my understanding. I sin when I cling to any desire, “right,” expectation, or predisposition, instead of having everything surrendered to Him.

Job did not sin. Even in shock, in loss, in anger, in fear, and in his reality being turned upside down, he did not sin. He remained right before God, because he did not demand from or believe he was owed anything from anyone - especially God. In my week of setbacks, I sinned because I expected I had to fix it all and control it all. I forgot the perspective Job kept in Job 1:21.

What if we were able to keep Job’s perspective and take an honest look at ourselves? Would we be so willing to excuse our sin? Would we be so willing to ignore or reinterpret God’s commands toward our circumstances?

We can approach God’s Word with the assumption that we are basically ok and that God’s commands have to somehow “fit” into the framework of our personality, predispositions, or preferences. Or we can approach His Word assuming He is right, and our response is to surrender everything and trust Him to shape us toward his commands.

“Fitting” God into our framework actually makes us ‘god.’ Because we know intellectually that we are not God, we then have to layer all kinds of extra explanations over the places where we go against the Bible. These explanations are often seen when people express a belief in relative or changing moral standards over time, belief that certain commands of God are irrelevant, or just the rejection of any belief system where their way of living would have to adjust to a central moral standard.

If we assume God is right and good, then we can live trusting that God is God. This is difficult for EVERYONE to live by, because it demands everyone’s predispositions be aligned to God’s ways, which often requires sacrificing deeply felt or deeply experienced desires to let God be first. This is a HUMAN difficulty, and no human feels it any less than any other. No group is more or less able or excused from facing this plain and simple reality. If God is God, then we must allow ourselves to look in the mirror at our own portrait and see what is there. We cannot allow ourselves to try and change God in order to save ourselves and cover our brokenness. Rather, we must allow ourselves to be His, in our brokenness, so that He can bring the fullness of life He intended for us.

There are plenty who have taken the opportunity to redefine the Bible and make everyone feel ok. And there are plenty who have used the Bible as a weapon against others to make themselves feel ok. BOTH are wrong. We must come to the Bible with a willingness to let God’s Word expose where we are broken, abnormal, rebellious, ugly, ashamed, scorned, fearful, drunken, adulterous, lustful, dysphoric, jealous, angry, hateful, judgmental, abusive, etc. When we see how far we are from Him and we feel the chasm is insurmountable, we must fix our eyes on Him and lay down our expectations and ‘rights.’ We cannot allow ourselves to fear it is too hard for US to get to him. We should not demand fairness and argue for our ’rights’ before Him. If He is God, we have no measure of control, no ‘rights’ by which to twist His arm to get what we want.

We only have His grace. His mercy and compassion for us caused Him to reach all the way to us, so He could bring us all the way to Him. Wherever we are far from Him, He will bring His healing, His transformation, His restoration, His love, His peace, His joy, His patience, His kindness, His goodness, His faithfulness, and His self-control to fill those spaces and redefine them in His image.

Are you blaming God for all the things you don’t or may never have? Are you tempted to believe popular reinterpretations of God’s Word that seem to fit your way of living? Are you willing to let the Bible show you who you really are? You may not like it any more than Winston Churchill liked his portrait. But it will be honest, unbiased, and trustworthy. Once you can face yourself and see the love God has for you, you’ll be able to have a more honest and transformative relationship with God.

I invite you to the most painful, challenging, and yet rewarding HUMAN journey we all face together - letting God be God and trusting Him with everything.

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