I sometimes have a myopic perspective.
There are concerns that seem big to me but in the broad sense are not that significant. I am running late to an appointment. I forgot to pick up something from the store. I am tired from a busy weekend. I am not in the mood to attend a particular meeting. The day becomes filled with distractions so I feel I am not making progress. I am ready for spring therefore the prospect of another snow storm depresses me. There are too many things to do and not enough time to do them. It is easy to look at my immediate concerns and become overwhelmed by them. At times, I get depressed by them.
There are people around the world that would love to have such concerns. They are struggling to find shelter in a war torn country while I take my suburban home for granted. There are people who are desperate for clean drinking water in Syria when I complain that the tap water is not cold enough. I stare at my closet to see which outfit to wear today whereas the person in Iraq boasts only one dirtied shirt and pants to their name.
These are my concerns. And at times they consume me. They consume me because I have a myopic perspective. I allow the inconveniences to annoy me rather than taking a step back to see the bigger picture. Granted, I do not want to minimize the issues that the average person faces on a given day. Yet, it is good to have perspective. Is this concern really worth becoming depressed over or should I shrug it off as part of life? Should I not take a moment and mentally step into someone’s shoes in order to realize that life is not so bad?
I was in a bit of a mood last week. On that day, my wife shared a story about one of her students. He was raised in the Sudan. Due to conflict in his country, he fled by riding all the way to Egypt on the bottom of a train. He was able to get a job for a couple of years before obtaining political asylum in the United States. By the time he reached America he had spent ten years in a tent as a refugee. Ok, I am not a survivalist so one week in a tent would do me in. I cannot imagine ten years. Such a situation prevents a person from having any long-term possessions. It would be impossible to feel settled. Privacy would be out of the question. Ok, this is a big deal compared to my “I didn’t get a good night sleep moments.”
In the moment, I did not want to hear that story. I wanted to hang onto my petty concerns. Yet, the story kept kicking around in my head. It kept gnawing at my superficiality. It kept reminding me that there are bigger issues in life. Does it eliminate the concerns that I face on a given day? No but it does help me see them for what they are – inconveniences rather than true problems. And in doing so it keeps my emotional frustrations at bay. It prompts me to be more grateful. And it reminds me to pray for those that are truly in need.
The Apostle Paul writes while in a prison cell, “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy” (Philippians 1:4). Here is a man with perspective. In the midst of a true problem, he still considers others. He still prays for others. Yes, that is the perspective I want in life.