The Lens We Look Through

When Dr Oliver Eslinger was invited to become head coach of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) basketball team in 2008 he knew what he was getting himself into. He went into the job with eyes wide open. You see the Caltech Beavers hadn’t won a championship game since 1985. In fact they had clocked up a 23 season losing streak, considered the longest in US sporting history.

Turning such a culture around wasn’t going to happen quickly. Eslinger was looking through a long-term lens. He was looking through the lens of potential. He saw the team as they were, but also as they could become.

It would take three years from when he arrived at Caltech to get that famous first win after 310 consecutive losses. The one-point victory made national headlines across the USA.

Eslinger is now into his tenth year at Caltech and has built a highly competitive team. He is not finished yet and a championship is not out of the Beavers’ grasp. He continues to look through the lens of potential.

In all spheres of life, the lens we look through impacts our thinking and actions.

Every day in life we choose the lenses we look through. We can choose challenge or opportunity. We can choose despair or hope. We can choose pessimism or optimism. We can choose problem or solution. We can choose self or others.

During our recent Family Series at Crossway I sought to highlight the big difference between seeing life and relationships through an expectation lens compared with a Kingdom lens.

I shared with our Crossway community about people who have made a lasting impact on my life. While they were all unique individuals – all very different people – they shared one thing in common; they saw me through a Kingdom lens. Such people see others as they are, but also as they can be. Thankfully they looked at me as I was but could also see beyond. They saw potential, they cheered me on, they loved me unconditionally, they stood by when I failed and celebrated my successes.

They saw me with the eyes of Jesus!

The reality is that in life we all carry around a “box” inside us – a box full of our hopes, dreams and desires. We all have such a box. It will look different for each of us. There is nothing wrong with the box. It is good to have these things in our life. The challenge is what we do with this box.

As Andy Stanley insightfully reminds us, all too often we take our hopes, dreams and desires box and we look to others around us, particularly those close to us, to meet these. The box becomes an expectations box and this significantly impacts our attitude.

Here are some common markers of looking through an expectation lens.

  • We focus on self: “It’s all about me!”
  • We see weaknesses in others
  • We are quick to criticise
  • We become blinkered and we see that others need to change
  • We become circumstance focused

When we constantly look through the expectation lens we foster disappointment. We drain energy from relationships. We are not fun people to be around. We water the seeds of selfishness and resentment.

We see the world very differently when we look through a Kingdom lens.

  • We focus on the needs of others
  • We see strengths and potential in others
  • Rather than criticise, we are quick to encourage
  • We take off the blinkers and ask: “Where do I need to change?”
  • Rather than circumstances, we focus on Christ and all that is possible in his strength

Kingdom lens people are encouragers. They are people who make us better people. They shine the light of Jesus in practical ways – they shape a Kingdom legacy. They are people we want to be around. They water seeds of potential, faith, leadership, forgiveness and resilience. I’m so thankful to God for the impact Kingdom lens men and women have had in my life.

Let me encourage you today to consider your sphere of relationships and influence. Consider your closest family relationships, your friendships, your professional relationships. What lens are you looking at others through today?

We can all too easily pick up the expectation lens and then we wonder why our relationships are not what we want them to be. But things can be different. With the Holy Spirit at work in our lives we can seek God’s help to each day become more Kingdom oriented, seeking to see others as Jesus sees us.

A few years back I met Bob, a man celebrating his 100th birthday. He became a follower of Jesus at the age of nine. He was married to his late wife Bessie for 60 years. As we chatted I asked him what were some of his “relationship secrets”. Here’s what he had to say:

  • We learned the importance of thanking each other every day
  • We loved generously
  • We forgave quickly
  • And we realised we couldn’t do it on our own

It was clear to see how much Bob loved his late wife and the difference faith made to his life. At 100 he was still keeping his eyes firmly on Jesus and he saw the world through a Kingdom lens. He was an inspiring man.

Today let’s be thankful for those who have seen us through a Kingdom lens. May we do the same – it will make a big difference in the lives of others!

– Scott Pilgrim