This post is the second in a series titled Your World, God’s View. You can find the complete series (when it’s done!) here.
When I was a child I loved playing on the porch. Whether it was the more formal front porch furnished with a simple black bench, the carport where I could roller skate when the cars were gone, or the screened-in back porch where I could swing or even relax on a twin-sized bed and read a favorite book, I loved the feel of being outside but still connected to my home, my safe place.
From the porch I could hear the sounds of children playing, people driving by, birds singing, and neighborhood dogs barking, but I could also hear my mom cooking dinner, my brother watching television and my dad working on his latest project in the basement. I could experience the world, but with the safety of home still beneath my feet.
Because I was just a child, there were times that the front porch was as far as I could get into my world. I may not have been allowed to venture down the street, but I could watch people come and go on that street from a distance. And I may not have been allowed to go into a neighbor’s house, but I could watch those neighbors throw a Frisbee or weed the flower beds in their front yard. That porch was my window to the world. It provided a safe place from which I could view the world beyond me and my family.
You can imagine that my view of the world from the safety of my porch was rather limited. When I looked out from my front porch I simply saw other homes similar to mine. I saw well-tended yards that nevertheless showed a little wear and tear from the play of children and the antics of restless dogs. I saw seemingly happy moms and dads coming home from work, unloading bags of groceries, getting the mail, and mowing the grass. I saw suitably dressed, healthy and cared for children riding their bikes, bouncing balls, and jumping rope.
I didn’t see poverty, child abuse, neglect or crime. I also didn’t see affluence, extravagance, or high fashion. In fact I also rarely saw skin colors different from my own, and I never heard an unfamiliar language being spoken. My view of the world was very narrow, very short-sighted.
Excerpted from The View from My Front Porch,
Kay Harms, 2012
“The view from my front porch” is simply a phrase I coined to label the worldview we naturally have, the one we don’t work to establish or correct based on God’s Word. We all have a view from our own front porches. We all, to a degree, see the world from the limited lens of our experience.
And here’s something that may surprise you. That viewpoint is not inherently bad or wrong. It doesn’t need to be discarded completely. However, it is flawed. After all, sometimes things are not as they seem. Sometimes what we saw was not indicative of the normal. And often times we’ve failed to see the big picture.
But instead of tossing the viewpoints we build from the confines of our own little corners of the world, I think it’s best simply to understand them in the context of the bigger picture, God’s viewpoint. When we think back to the way we were raised, the homes in which we grew up, the schools in which we were educated, the experiences that defined us, we need to assess them honestly.
That may mean that we realize:
- our parents were not perfect
- or our parents were not completely flawed
- our experiences were limited
- we had some prejudices handed down to us
- we were protected from much that is harmful and evil
- we were exposed unduly and irresponsibly to much that is harmful and evil
- life was sweet
- life was hard
- the religion I was taught was faulty
- the faith I saw was real and genuine
- someone hurt us
- someone failed to protect us
When you look back on your roots, those formative years in which so many of your thought patterns and viewpoints are established, what biases do you identify? We all have some, you know.
But once we’ve identified our biases, the rosy hue or the muddy murk that has shaded our views of the world, we can gather up the rest of our viewpoint and use it for God’s kingdom. Wow! That’s a big statement, huh? But it’s true.
Consider this. God selected at least 33 different men to pen the 66 books included in our Bible. They lived at different times; some were married, some were single; their occupations ranged from shepherd to doctor to tax collector to tent maker to king; and they each experienced God in different ways from dreams to visions to encounters with the pre-incarnate Messiah to walking side-by-side with Jesus.
Why would God choose so many different individuals to pen His Holy Word? Perhaps for the very same reason that He gives you and me varying assignments in our present age: because each person brings a unique set of experiences, skills and, yes, viewpoints to the table.
I’ve seen things you’ve never seen. And you’ve experienced both trials and triumphs that I may never know. We’ve both rubbed shoulders with different sets of people and been affected by the choices, habits and lifestyles of those people.
We see things differently.
And God can use that. As long as He also has our permission and yielded submission to shape that raw, primitively formed vantage point into something for His purposes.
So I’m curious, what are some of the unique vantage points that you bring to the table, based on your growing up years, your experiences and your relationships? Here are a few of my mine:
- I value education because I was raised by two educators.
- I know the impact a church can have on a child because I’ve been in one most every Sunday since I was born.
- Because I was raised in the South, I’ve seen discrimination and distrust, but I’ve also seen gracious hospitality and generous spirits.
- I’ve seen people “doing church,” and I’ve seen people be the church.
Tell me something about your unique point of view, the way you see things “from your front porch.”