Change Your Lens || Becca Niemeyer

Posted on September 22nd, by Becca Niemeyer in Heart. No Comments

Change Your Lens || Becca Niemeyer

Perspective is a funny thing. I tend to think I have great perspective, until I am forced to see from an angle I hadn’t before. In literal terms, it takes a trip to the eye doctor to show you how bad your eyesight is, and give you the lenses you need to see. Your ‘new sight’, in turn, gives birth to new joys of color and definition (unfortunately also spotting the wrinkles and white hairs developing all too quickly), perhaps safer travel, and a myriad of other experiences that may have been missed had you rather become accustomed to and comfortable with the previous blur.

In cultural terms, it takes stepping outside your comfort zone and your known habits, rituals and community to really see, feel, and even taste what is true in the lives of others. I recently heard the quote ‘you don’t know, what you don’t know, until you go’, and I am apt and ready to use it as a mission trip slogan for our college students.

But truly, I wonder at times how much I am missing because I stick to the lenses I know rather than trying to catch a glimpse through the lenses of my neighbor.

Much has been circulating in the news of late regarding what’s happened (and still happening) in Ferguson, MS and the fatal shooting of Michael Brown. It has been over one month since the incident, and I would venture to say our country is still grieving the realities that continue to exist regardless of changes made over 50 years ago in what it means to care for our neighbors, to recognize our mutual humanity. It is painful, it is real, and it is every day life. So what are we to do about it?

As Christians, we are often guided to ‘pray about it’, and rightly so because God is powerful and will work in greater ways than we could ask or imagine. But I hope that isn’t a cop out for action. Now when I say action, I want to start here – Jesus Christ shared the greatest commandment to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”, quickly followed by ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’. I know for myself it is much easier to rest in the fact that God loves my neighbor rather than the work it takes to love my neighbor myself.

Let’s look at it this way – in The Message we read in the Gospel of John that Jesus ‘became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.’

When you move into the neighborhood, your neighbor’s problems become your problems.

Loving my neighbor means caring about what they care about. Understanding the issues from the inside rather than from the outside. Seeking healing, solutions, and restoration means getting to know each other, what is broken, and spending a lot of time listening. I’d also like to imaginatively state that God didn’t move into a suburban neighborhood, but even if He did, he spent the majority of his time with and for those different from him in status, in society, in physical/mental/spiritual health than him.

Now I’m not talking about up and moving to Missouri to wade through racial injustice and gain an enlightened perspective (though a trip to help understand the realities couldn’t hurt). But I am saying check your lenses – what privileges do you have simply by the color of your skin, the neighborhood you came from, the education you’ve received? Who are your neighbors? Have you chosen to love only the ones who look, smell, walk and talk like you? Or are you capturing the vision God has for restoration of the world as all nations join together, neighbor to neighbor? I often need to be reminded that there are sins of commission, and sins of ommision – Lord forgive us for what we have done, and for what we have left undone.

One trip to the eye doctor does not make for a lifetime of clear vision. As we grow older, may we continually be learning and changing our lenses to better understand and love the world that God has placed us in, and take the steps to see as God intended.

Becca Niemeyer Becca Niemeyer (formerly Arrowsmith) grew up in Seattle, WA, under the pretense that she would become a dentist, only to find out God made her to be a pastor. Now she lives in Bellingham, WA working with The INN University Ministries. She invites college students to think about God while also trying to help them integrate faith into their daily lives.
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