Expanding our perspective

There’s a story about a woman who drove back and forth to work every single day for years. After making the exact same drive for 5 years, she was certain she knew every detail there was to know about her 10-mile commute. However, one day her car was in the shop and she had to drive her husband’s pickup instead.

The drive into work that day was an entirely new experience.  Sitting up higher in the pickup than she ever did in her car, her viewpoint was completely shifted.  She was able to see over fences and bushes that had previously blocked her view.  She quickly realized there was much she had been missing simply because of her perspective.

I wonder just how much that story is true for each of us – particularly as it applies to our faith.  We may have been Christ-followers for years, and think we’ve pretty much seen and heard most every detail of our beliefs.  We’ve read through the Bible several times, participated in countless Bible studies, know all our favorite songs/hymns by heart, and are familiar with a variety of teaching on particular topics.

Tunnel Vision

And yet, all of that comes from just one viewpoint; and to be honest, we can be pretty leery of anything that falls outside our perspective.  In fact, it becomes rather easy to start judging whether any other perspective is even “Christian”.  I can easily put myself into this camp because I too have done this for years.  But over the past 8 months in seminary, I’ve gone from driving a little economy car, to a full-size passenger bus!  My perspective has been so greatly expanded…and my faith has grown immeasurably.  Please understand I am not at all talking about expanding our viewpoints by incorporating other belief systems.  I’m still driving the same road – still commuting on the Christ-follower route.

I was reading a book last week about the early church and came across this quote from Gerald Sittser: “Every generation of believers faces the risk of becoming a prisoner to its own myopic vision of the Christian faith, assuming that how it understands and practices faith is always the best.”  That really struck me.  How we pray, read Scripture, and worship is not how every Christ-follower has ever prayed, read Scripture or worshiped.  In fact, it isn’t even how every Christ-follower around the world does so today.  Our faith can grow and be strengthened by considering ways other Christians from other generations considered, pursued and practiced their faith.  Reading biographies and writings from early church fathers provides a fascinating view that expands our own.  Exploring the practices and teachings of the desert saints and monks is encouraging and enlightening.  Listening to music that falls outside our normal repertoire can be a true blessing.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day.  Many of us wore green, ate corned beef and cabbage, and perhaps kept our eyes peeled for a little leprechaun.  Perhaps we also considered the man for whom the celebration is named.  I fear, however, that too many of us discount his teachings and perspectives on following Christ because he lived so long ago, or perhaps because of his supposed  Catholic/Protestant leanings.  What if, instead of worrying about whether St. Patrick was this or that, we truly asked ourselves how our own faith could be bolstered by his life, accomplishments and mission.

Our faith, as it grows stronger, should be expanding, not narrowing.  As we contemplate and pursue God in His awesome fullness, we cannot even begin to take in all that He is.  Perhaps by expanding our perspective, and learning new ways of worshiping and drawing near to Him, we can understand and value parts of Him that we’d otherwise miss.  I’ve included below a beautiful prayer known as St. Patrick’s Breastplate, or The Lorica.  It is attributed to St. Patrick, although it’s honestly unknown whether he himself actually wrote it.  Regardless, on this St. Patrick’s Day, read it, reflect on it, pray it yourself, and ask God to show you how this prayer applies in your own life.  And then listen to the beautiful Celtic song found at the end of the prayer that’s based on St. Patrick’s Breastplate prayer.  The music may not be “your style”…but let it minister to you anyway.  Let his prayer become your own…Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ above me, Christ below me…

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God’s strength to pilot me,
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.