I was taking in the view today from atop my home away from home. Although I've seen this same view a thousand times, it still was amazing to see a white ocean. The combination of the wind, whitecaps and sun's reflection... returns the unexpected.
As an artist, I've painted many seascapes. The natural inclination is to lay down the blue and top of with the white highlights of the surf. The view this afternoon caused me to have a sight shift of sorts. I needed to look at and think about this in a contrary way. I needed to force myself to do the opposite of my natural inclination, lay down a white ocean and add in bits of blue. It felt strange, but it worked.
As I further contemplate this, I realize that the parallel of the painting and of my life is one too obvious to ignore. I am naturally inclined to want an easier life, maybe more money, certainly more sleep... Being down in Newport Beach this week, I am surrounded by opulence; the fancy stores, the incredible restaurants, the yachts... who wouldn't want this lifestyle? (...and I'll quickly add here, that I'm not saying it is sinful to be wealthy... It's great to be blessed in this way- but I'm looking at where is our focus, our trust? What is most important to us?) Yet Jesus asks in Mark 8:36, "What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" He speaks about the last being first and the first being last. He tells us to pray for those who persecute us. He speaks in opposites, contrary to our natural inclination. So often we feel as Christians, we're good people, we do nice things, it only follows that we deserve nice things, a better life. That would be fair. And yet, bad things still happen to good people.
Nowhere in the Bible does God say life will be fair. Rather Jesus says that we will be persecuted because of Him. Paul reminds us that we will go through many trials. But this is not some sick and twisted scheme God came up with to punish us. He doesn't create the bad; but He does sometimes allow it to happen to draw us closer, refine us, make us more like Jesus, make us more dependent on Him, grow our trust, help us look to the cross... Our purpose is to bring Him glory through trouble or triumph.
It's far more natural to praise God in the good and blame Him in the bad. But we are called to have a shift in our sight; praising God in good and bad. We are called to see things through His eyes, loving those hardest to love. We are called to live out this life as a new creation, set apart from the rest of this world, living for eternity. Paul says in Romans 12:2, "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." This is not easy. I need to constantly be aware of where I am placing my focus- what is most important. I need to check and re-check and continually shift my sight accordingly. Do I? Not always. It's hard. It isn't my natural inclination. Some days I want to yell at the horrific Northern California drivers, or stay in bed and eat chocolate. I want to forget any responsibilities and take off to Paris... I lose my patience with those closest to me, I judge the people in my path rather than reach out. I'm quick to condemn. I'm thankful then to have a God who draws me back, corrects my vision, gives me focus, and offers me forgiveness through His son. I am thankful that I can call out at anytime and His Holy Spirit will give me what it takes.
Shifting our sight to a God focused life sometimes feels strange, but it works.