Tuesdays with Sarah… View from the Top

A couple of weeks ago at one of our Wednesday night praise band practices, I was in the ‘Tech Nest’. I was running the sound for practice.  I snapped a quick picture of my view from the back of the sanctuary, capturing the soundboard along with the band on the stage.  I posted it to Instagram (of course) with the caption, “My current view… Not back here often, but always enlightening to see something from a different perspective.  I think there’s a life lesson here somewhere…”

My Instagram Post about Perspective

My Instagram Post about Perspective

I’m not normally in the sound booth. I’m in the praise band, often leading.  Therefore, I’m usually on the stage.  I only run sound for special services; either because I’m not involved with music that day or we didn’t have a sound person available.  So that night, as I was looking at the board, adjusting knobs and talking to the band members, I started thinking about how very different my thoughts were from that vantage point, versus my normal view from the stage.

When I’m on the stage, I’m specifically concerned about hearing myself. I know that sounds dreadfully selfish, but when I can hear myself, I know if I’m messing up;  especially if I’m singing a harmony part.  I’m also concerned about hearing the rhythm guitar, so that I can stay on beat.   And lastly, I try to keep in mind monitor volume on the stage, because we tend to get way too loud, which then overpowers the house.

When I was in the sound booth, I had different concerns. First, I was most concerned with the blend.  Making sure the entire band sounded well mixed.  Then I wanted to make sure that whoever was leading a specific song, that their mic was up a little more so they would be easy to follow.

What a difference in those two perspectives! The one I have from stage seems awfully self-centered!  Making sure that I can hear, that I stay on beat…  From the sound booth, it was more about the entire group and how well we sound for the congregation.  It was a lesson well-learned, and reminded me that I need to remember it’s not all about me.  Something I preach and say often, but sometimes forget to put into practice.

My perspective has pretty much been the same my entire life. As I’ve said before, all of my grade school years were in the same school, which was also the school that belonged to my church.  So I was in the same spot in Birmingham, AL for a long time.  Even when Scott took a youth pastor position in Union City, TN, it wasn’t much different.  Yes, Birmingham is urban and Union City is rural.  But both are in the Bible belt, both have the same types of stores and restaurants (just took longer to get to them from Union City!), and both had people…  regular, everyday people.  Although the landscape might have changed, my behavior pretty much stayed the same, whether my license said Alabama or Tennessee.

Geographically speaking, my perspective didn’t really change. I still saw the world the same. But when my role changed to wife, and then to mother, I guess you could say my perspective changed some.  Becoming a wife meant not just looking out for what I wanted to do, but what Scott wanted to do as well.  Not just what I wanted to eat, but what Scott wanted to eat, too.  And it goes on and on.  You learn to compromise.  Then when you become a mom, you learn about sacrifice.  Right from the beginning, you sacrifice your physical body to have this precious, messy, smelly, crying baby!  Then as they grow and have activities and lessons and practices, you sacrifice things you’d like to do so that your child has these amazing childhood memories.  You sacrifice your money to take trips and buy toys so that they will somehow feel loved.  And you sacrifice sleep, my friend…  for about the first 2 decades of their lives!  So I’m not so sure that my ‘viewpoint’ changed that much with these role changes, but my behavior certainly changed.

Me and my Elsie... and yes, she is the reason for my bandage! Sacrifice :)

Me and my Elsie… and yes, she is the reason for my bandage! Sacrifice 🙂

When my entire world view changed was the first time I went to Honduras on a medical mission trip. And from that point in May 2012, I have never seen the world the same.  Rick Warren calls it seeing with ‘Great Commission Eyes’. He states, “It will enlarge your heart, expand your vision, stretch your faith, deepen your compassion, and fill you with a kind of joy you’ve never experienced. It could be the turning point in your life.” And it definitely was! I realized that there was an entire world out there, outside of the borders of the United States.  I realized that people from other countries knew more about my country than I did.  I realized that the worst of my problems in America would be considered blessings to the people I was serving in Tegucigalpa.  And because most of my work was done in a hospital there, that is where my eyes were opened the most.  Even today, with EVERY trip to a hospital here in the States, my heart overflows with gratitude for the facilities, doctors, nurses, and medicines we have here.  It makes me beyond angry when I hear people complain about hospitals here.  I’m sure there are some complaints that are justified, but there are many that are just ridiculous.  We are so blessed, yet so discontent.  And Honduras showed me that.  I learned more about gratitude and contentment and strength, and that I was lacking in those 3 areas.  My perspective changed… how I see the world, how I see my country, how I see my community, how I see people.

I just got back from my 4th mission trip to Honduras.  It was the week of our Presidential election.  We were advised to be careful sharing our opinions, and really use discernment talking about the entire election; in particular, talking about Donald Trump, since he had been reported using negative and hateful language toward Latinos.  I hadn’t really even thought about the election and how my Latino friends viewed it.  So putting into practice what I had learned on my first trip down there, I decided to try and see it from their point of view.  It was eye opening.  In particular, my sweet roommate, Eunice, a 19 year old Honduran girl who has been my interpreter for 3 of my trips, told me that she is concerned that she won’t be able to get her visa now with Trump as president.  She has plans to come to the States to get her college education.  I understood where she was coming from, and then shared my thoughts with her based on my little knowledge of how the process works.  She seemed to feel better after our talk.  And I know it helped to truly listen to her and try to see things from her viewpoint.

My sweet friend, roommate, and interpreter, Eunice

My sweet friend, roommate, and interpreter, Eunice

I had wanted to share this blog before I went to Honduras and before the election. I feel, no, I know, that our country was severely divided over the past several months due to the election, with lots of people speaking and not lots of people listening.  It just made my heart heavy and my soul downcast.  So I thought a good blog about trying to see things from other’s point of view would be extremely timely.  But time got away from me, and it didn’t get done.  But I think God wanted me to save it for after the election and the trip.

In the aftermath of the election, I was optimistic about what my Facebook feed would look like. We had a winner, and although he might have not been the media’s favorite, at least we should have some closure.  I thought that the fighting between the candidates would finally be over, so that would help the catty, snarky, and ugly posts come to an end.  Boy was I wrong!  I was even more heartbroken than before.  I saw these posts people wrote about not being able to believe this country would vote for such a hateful person to be our president and how they are ashamed of this country.  That if you had voted for Trump, then you weren’t a Christian.  Or if you had voted for Trump, you were a hater of women and of ethnic groups.  And I’ll just show my hand here.  I voted for Trump.  I am not a fan of all he says or does, but I felt in my heart that I couldn’t vote for Hillary.  I have many reasons I couldn’t vote for her, which I will not waste time and energy sharing in this post.  But I am a Christian, I am all about female empowerment (I went to Judson College, an all-girls college), and I was in Honduras, sharing God’s love with a different ethnic group.

I found myself getting very angry and defensive reading these posts and articles. I felt like they were insulting me, judging me, and being condescending towards me.  And as soon as I was about to type some quick comment letting those people know exactly what I thought, God quickly spoke to my heart, “try to see it from their point of view”.  Ugh.  And that’s exactly what I felt.  Ugh.  And it’s exactly what I said outloud to myself in my hotel room in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.  “Try to see it from their point of view”…  So I sat back against my pillow, breathed heavily, and placed myself in their position.  The very thing I learned 4 years ago and I had just practiced the day before talking with Eunice… in the very same room!  How quickly we forget!

The Lord helped show me that those posts I was reading weren’t directed at me. They were out of frustration about something happening that was totally unexpected.  The media had been saying Hillary was going to win for months.  I think many of my friends that were Hillary supporters truly believed she would win.  When that did not come to fruition, they grieved.  Because these friends I’m referring to are extremely passionate people, their grieving was passionate as well.  As soon as I tried to see it from their point of view, the knot in my stomach quickly dissolved.  Now it has come back many times since then, with every Facebook post and news article that I don’t agree with.  But I just don’t let it linger, by simply changing seats and seeing things from someone else’s vantage point.

Flying back to the States from Honduras, I was blessed with a window seat. As we took off, I had a beautiful view of Tegucigalpa.  As the plane reached higher elevation, I could see the entire countryside.  Looking out, I heard that same familiar voice speaking to my heart.  This time He said, “It’s really about seeing things from MY perspective.”

Flying high over Tegucigalpa

Flying high over Tegucigalpa

So what is His perspective? Is it just that He sees everything from the top?   From His throne up in heaven?  Like I was seeing the entire city of Tegucigalpa from my elevated airplane seat?  No, I just think He used that current situation to speak directly into my heart.

His perspective is from above, but not necessarily a ‘physical’ above. His perspective is from an ‘eternal’ above.  He views us all in light of heaven and relationship, mercy and grace.

I’m reminded of the story of Zacchaeus the Tax Collector in the Bible, Luke 19. He actually was trying to get a perspective from ‘above’, but not because he was being Christ-like.  He was just short and wanted to see this man they called Jesus. And up he climbed into a sycamore tree so he could get a good view from the top, and still stay somewhat hidden from the crowd.

See, Zacchaeus was not well liked; therefore He was trying to stay incognito. He was a chief tax collector, wealthy, and stole from his fellow Jews.  But Jesus saw him, perched up on that branch.  He told him to get down immediately, because He was coming to his house that very day.  Zacchaeus jumped down out of that tree and welcomed him gladly.

The crowd began to mutter ugly things about Jesus, saying that He was going to be the guest of a sinner. Before Jesus could even speak up, Zacchaeus said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Zacchaeus had already transformed radically just because Jesus SAW him.  Jesus replied, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  The viewpoint of the people in the crowd was that Zacchaeus was nothing but a worthless thief, and a disgrace to their Jewish people.  But Jesus saw a lost man, worthy of love and grace and salvation.

And there it is. He sees with eyes of love, eyes of grace, and eyes of mercy.  He seeks out the lost.  When we see things from HIS perspective, we aren’t so easily offended, so easily defensive, and much more compassionate.  Lord, give me Your view from the top.

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