“I’m such an idiot,” I mumbled to myself as I picked up the pieces of my ruined experiment.
I was freezing some samples to store for my assay and, fumbling with the tongs, had left them in liquid nitrogen for far too long. As a result, the lab was filled with “Pop! Pop!” while little plastic caps flew around the room… the caps which had the sample numbers on them. Unable to tell which was which without the sample caps, I thought for sure I was going to have to do the experiment all over again. Thus started the all-too-familiar spiral, beating myself up for not being more careful, telling myself I should have been better than that, that I should be embarrassed, etc. Realizing that I was beating myself up over something so small and insignificant, I asked the Lord to help me see why I was having that reaction. Why was this making me so upset? Why was I making such a big deal out of it?
Slowly, the Lord quieted my mind and helped me understand that my underlying expectation of perfection and feeling like I need to do it on my own had made it look like this mistake was bigger than it was. And, because I have these expectations, I thought that I had failed at who I was supposed to be when, in reality, I had failed no one but myself. It was my perspective, informed by a sense of insecurity and self protection, that had led to this result.
Funnily enough, the experiment wasn’t ruined after all. Because of the way I had arranged the samples, I was able to replace the caps in the proper order and store my samples as planned. But this episode got me thinking, if my perspective was causing me to react so strongly over something so small, how else was it affecting my life? And how could I learn to recognize these moments where I was embracing a false perspective and find the one that is true?
The gospel of Matthew seems to provide an answer to these questions. The writer states, “[Jesus] went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people” (Matthew 4:23). When the Lord entered His ministry on earth, He was not afraid to take up the position of teacher. He was not afraid to proclaim the truth to those who would hear Him, and His accompanying signs served as authentication of the authority with which He spoke. He could claim to speak the truth because He is Himself the Truth from which all things come. He is the Lord, and He alone can see the truth in its fullness.
Jesus is my Teacher, my Messiah and Lord. It is His perspective that matters most. Mine has to do with punishment and expectations. His has to do with love and relationship. Mine gives me a false identity. His gives me the truth. When I embrace my feelings of overwhelm and anxiety, when I accept what these experiences are saying to me about who I am, I am not living in the truth. Only by listening to my Teacher, by letting Him show me my identity beyond my experiences, will I be able to see clearly and let Him lead me to greater sanctity. In order to be made more holy and become the person I was actually meant to be, rather than the person I believed I needed to be, the Lord needs to be given permission to take away my false perspectives, assumptions, and fears, and show me what He sees instead.
So, when I find myself in a mental spiral, when I feel anxious and like my world collapsing into itself as I try to understand what’s happening, I am working to notice that. I’m working to accept it. More importantly, I am working to accept that in that moment I don’t have the perspective to see things the way they really are. And instead of trying to figure out what’s going on, I am allowing myself to wait, calling upon God to help me see things the way He sees them so I can evaluate with clarity when my mind is calm again.
There are moments when I know I cannot trust my own perspective, and in those moments, I am trying to rely on His.
Friends, I know it can be hard sometimes to look beyond our own experience. The feelings we feel can be so strong, and when they are strong it can be hard to look beyond them and see what’s happening through God’s eyes. But it is through His eyes, the eyes of Love, that we see the truth most clearly. From His gaze we can perceive most truly what is going on around us and what is happening within ourselves. So when you are overwhelmed, or angry, or feel like your feelings are running away from you, take some time to recognize it, accept it, and ask God to bring His light into it.
“Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7
Let Him be your understanding friends. Let Him be your perspective.