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Perspective is a powerful thing. On the one hand, it adds nothing new to the world itself. It merely shows you something from another angle. On the other hand, it can make you feel as if the world is new, as if you’ve discovered something. That can be very useful, especially when you’ve slipped into a daze amidst a routine life.
Recently, I’ve been taking walks on my lunch break. I go to a neighborhood across the street from the seminary where I work. And I noticed something startling the first time I walked there. As I was coming back, I took the picture you see above. In the distance, you can see the entrance to the seminary.
Now, what struck me is that I drive through that entrance every single day, without a second thought. That’s my routine. But here I was a few hundred yards removed, looking at the very same entrance, and yet everything felt different. I could see the same buildings, the same parked cars, the same trees, and yet they all seemed woven into some sort of newness, some world that I had never really perceived.
When I eventually crossed the street and walked through the entrance, I didn’t see the seminary as I had before. I couldn’t. I had noticed something about it, which I still can’t quite put my finger on. And that’s what perspective does for us. As my friend and former teach put it, “the idea of using a perspective is fairly simple. You observe a physical object from a new angle. If you do, you may notice something that you did not notice before” (Poythress, 2018, p. 3). The power in noticing something new is that works like smelling salts on us; it snaps us out of our daze with routine and reminds us that there is much more to our little worlds than we think.
The power of perspective, however, is not a groundless phenomenon that just so happens to be part of our world. No—it is a power rooted in the nature of God himself. Perspectives are part of God’s knowledge.
John Frame reminds us, “Theologians say that because God made everything and remembers what he has made, he is omniscient. But his knowledge includes not only basic facts about the trees and the hairs and the sparrows. He sees all these things from every possible perspective. He sees the sparrow from behind its head as well as in front of its face. And he sees my hair from its follicle to its ever decreasing pigment. He sees it from his omniscient divine perspective, but he also understands fully how my wife experiences my hair. And he is able to see it as anyone else sees it, from every possible vantage point. He knows what the sparrow looks like to another sparrow, or to the hawk soaring overhead. He sees my hair from the vantage point of the fly on the wall of my office. He even knows perspectives that are merely possible: he knows what my hair would look like from the vantage point of a fly on the wall, even when there is no fly on my wall. So God is not only omniscient but omniperspectival” (Frame, 2017, p. 5).
Omniperspectival—now there’s a word worth learning. God sees everything from every possible perspective. So, when I saw the seminary from a new perspective, I was experiencing a part of God’s knowledge that I did not have before. That’s where the life-giving newness comes from. When you wake up from your routine life, when the smelling salts hit you, you are experiencing God, not merely a change in your own perception.
So, take a walk. Go somewhere you haven’t gone before. Find a fresh perspective, and smile. There, you have found God himself. A change in perspective, after all, is not really what you need to snap out of your daze with routine. It’s not vision that leads to vigor. It’s God himself, who is Life.
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