Reframing Our Perspective

You couldn’t hold back my six-year-old son’s delight when a special delivery of Richmond Tigers AFL supporter gear arrived at our place this week. There was a new jersey, a hoodie, posters, pencils, drink container and more. He was one very happy young Tigers’ fan.

But what made this lovely surprise more special was the valuable perspective lesson that came with it.

The delivery was arranged by a former work colleague of mine who has always shown interest in Arli’s development, particularly with some of the challenges he has faced. She mentioned Arli’s passion for the Tigers to her Melbourne-based brother-in-law with some Tigers’ connections and he went beyond the call of duty.

In short, John is not a well man. He has some significant physical health challenges. He is visually impaired and can’t drive. He has one prosthetic leg (which Arli couldn’t believe was in Richmond colours). John could easily choose to focus on his own challenges, circumstances and setbacks. He could easily find reasons not to look to the needs of others.

But that isn’t how John is wired. He’s a man who looks beyond his circumstances and challenges. He has seized opportunities. He is a businessman; he is actively engaged in the community; he has a soft spot for others with special needs; he understands the importance perspective brings to life.

Perspective is such a powerful thing. The older I get the more I see its power. Perspective is all about focus. What we focus on so often becomes our experience.

If we are focused on our circumstances and challenges – as difficult as these may be – we will undoubtedly become weighed down, bogged down emotionally in the mire. We will find it hard to think positively and have our eyes open to beauty, good and positive things, ways we can serve others.

I’ve found it helpful in my journey to hold on to these three simple truths. They allow me to keep refocusing, to reframe my perspective.


Others Centred

The first practical truth is that there are always people in more challenging situations than mine. And as hard as life can be at times, when I take my eyes off myself and on to others, my perspective changes. Seeing the needs of others and serving others is good for the soul. It doesn’t mean we don’t care for ourselves or get the support in life we need, but an others centred view of the world changes our perspective for good.

That’s the perspective that saw John go out of his way for Arli.

It is what I see in my wife, when in the midst of challenge – she so often is there for others. Even when she was battling cancer some years back she was cooking and delivering meals for those in tough seasons.

I remember when I was going through one of the hardest times in my life I received a phone call to go and sit with a young woman from my former church who was dying from a terminal illness. The doctor told me she probably wouldn’t make it through the night. Ruth had little contact with her family and she requested I sit, hold her hand and pray. I did – and what a privilege it was – to be by her side for the last seven hours of her earthly life.

I walked out of the hospital at 5am, exhausted, in need of coffee, but most of all with fresh perspective. The others centred life is the way we were shaped to live.

Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.
– Philippians 2:3-5 (NIV)


Opportunity Centred

I think the second game changer when it comes to perspective in life is all about seizing opportunities.

There will always be challenges in life, but again I am struck by the choice people make each and every day. Some choose to always see challenge and that impacts their attitude and actions. It narrows their window to experience “more” in life. It can all too quickly lead to negativity, self-pity, even resentment.

Now don’t get me wrong – some people face Everest-type life challenges on a regular basis and we all have bad days, tough seasons. We are human.

But go back to John and again we see someone who is not only others centred but also opportunity centred. He has chosen to intentionally focus on opportunities in life rather than challenges.

We see this perspective when Israel are on the verge of the promise land. They send out a reconnaissance party of twelve spies. They all see the same things – massive challenges to overcome and generational life-changing opportunities to seize. Ten can’t get past the challenges. Two – Caleb and Joshua – can see the opportunities. We will come back to their response shortly.

But for now, let me ask you. Where is your focus today? Have you become so focused on challenges that you have lost sight of opportunities – whatever these new possibilities might look like?

I heard on the radio a few weeks back an interview with Julie Cini, a woman who lost both her babies to a rare genetic muscle wasting disease. Within months of the loss of her second child she also lost her husband in a car accident. I had tears in my eyes listening to her story.

How did she respond to these tragic events? Yes, she grieved. She didn’t know if she would make it. And yes, she still grieves. But she got back on her feet with the determination that researchers should find a cure for this deadly condition and that other families grappling with this same experience should receive greater support and care. She formed a charity and ten years on her passion for the cause is stronger than ever.

An opportunity focus has reframed her perspective, as it will ours.


Faith Centred

The third and most important re-frame for me is the difference faith brings to the table. The reality that God is for me, that God will never leave me, that God is with me in all seasons of life, turns my eyes upward.

Going back to Joshua and Caleb, Old Testament scholar Alan Redpath penned that when looking at the challenges before them they faced a stark choice.

They could focus on what seemed humanly impossible, or on that which was divinely possible.

This a key re-frame for each of us, whatever we face in life. I like it because it doesn’t seek to trivialise the big and real challenges we face – relationship crises, health issues, financial challenges, disappointments and setbacks.

Redpath reminds us that authentic and robust faith takes our eyes off what we cannot change or control and invites God to give us the strength, courage, resilience to stay the course, to step out of our comfort zones, to seize new opportunities, to sometimes just hold on tight until the storm passes. It’s re-framing faith. Faith that changes our perspective.

This week I’m thankful for John. I’m thankful for the rich reminder about the power of perspective.

Today, do you need to catch your breath and refocus? Maybe it’s reaching out to another in need. Maybe it’s seizing a new opportunity – big or small. Maybe it’s coming back again to a God who will never let you down!

Scott Pilgrim