The Beautiful Quest

I’m on a journey, a quest if you will, where I begin to see the world, people, through rose-tinted glasses. An adventure to always see the beautiful things. If you know me well you will know the sarcasm on my tongue that contains a good peppering of cynicism. Far too often, I come to a conclusion about someone and their actions much too quickly and without giving them the benefit of the doubt.

“Time for change.” I hear the LORD say, “Time to teach an old dog new tricks!”

I remember walking through Mamelodi Township in South Africa. My eyes took in the awful poverty. Houses that were mere shacks made from scraps of iron or wood. Children with no shoes on their feet, covered in the red soil of Africa. And the garbage, piles of garbage everywhere, absolutely everywhere. My heart ached.

But as we walked through the township, I noticed a gorgeous Morning Glory plant climbing a rusty, barbed wire fence. Dozens of deep purple flowers shouting in the sun, “look at me, look at me, I am beautiful!” And it was, glorious, the shiny purple of the petals radiating loveliness under the clear blue sky.

It was almost as though my eyes were suddenly opened. I could see beyond the povery, beyond the trash. Roosters with their gleaming black and orange feathers endlessly raking the red dirt. The sweet smile of the young lady who mischieviously posed as I took my camera out, children laughing as they chased a ball made from scraps of material. The wonder of watching a lady with huge bags of what must have been mealie meal balanced on her head – so sure footed as she dodged the holes in the dirt road!

I heard the LORD say, “Sometimes you have to look for it and look hard, open your eyes! Be attentive. What is your focus on – the garbage or the goodness? I see beauty in everything, especially in you! This is why the world is so beautiful outside. I couldn’t create ugliness because that’s not who I AM on the inside. It is the same with you, when you allow your beauty to shine through, become more beautiful on the inside then you will see the beautiful. As you let me mold and shape your character, take on my righteousness, you will see the beauty around you. Hiding in the cracks or cascading in the open. It will. be there, your perspective will have changed, your focius will no longer be on the ugliness or the critical, but on the beautiful.”

And so began my quest, my crusade to become that person with the glass half full, not half empty. Heck, with a glass that overflows with the beauty, the goodness of people, the every day surprises, flowers in the garbage and in the cracks of the rocks.

Are rose-tinted glasses really the ideal way to look at the world? Especially a world that is in as big a mess as our one is. I truly do believe the answer to that is yes. It is looking at someone or something, life, in an unduly idealistic, optimistic, sentimental or wistful perspective. Many may shout – “but that’s not real life!” But what about the Father, did He not look at me through rose-tinted glasses? If He hadn’t, all He would have seen was the garbage, the mess, the red dirt that caked my whole body, the poverty of my soul. But my Father saw potential, he knew the clay could become a beautiful pot, the piece of coal a diamond, the empty canvas a work of art. He looked at me optimistically, seeing past my sin, to the glimmer of beauty hidden in the shadows! He saw me through the blood of Jesus as a spotless bride! Should we not then strive to see others the same way, seeing potential, optimistically seeking beauty. I know it’s there!

Today I heard a saying, it made me catch my breath, another piece of the puzzle. Another step in my quest. “Judge every person with the scales weighted in their favour.” – Rabbi Joshua ben Perahiah. In other words, give everyone the benefit of the doubt, see the good in others. As my Father had so recently pointed out, open your eyes, see from a new perspective.

This is an old rabbinical saying, centuries old. Picture for a moment one of those old scales, like the scales of justice. You’re at the market on a hot day buying fresh produce from the farmers. The old, sun wrinkled farmer adds your grapes to the scale “one pound, you say?” The scale hits one pound and balances beautifully but the farmer adds yet another bunch because he’s kind. The scales tip in your favour, bagging them up he only charges you for a pound. “Judge every person with the scales weighted in their favour!”

The words Jesus spoke parallel that too: Matthew 7:1-2, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure your use, it will be measured back to you.” And so our question is left hanging in the air; what measure will you use when dealing with your neighbour? Will you let the scales tip in their favour – giving them the benefit of the doubt? Will you take the time to look beyond the shadows? What about that politician, can you do that with him too?! Ouch! I don’t know if I can LORD, but I can try!

Yesterday I saw a study in The Journal of Happiness Studies! Yes really, there is such a thing – I was surprised too! In a study of 707 people around the world, they looked at hostile attributional styles and benign attributional styles. In social situations, for instance, your friend doesn’t meet you for that lunch date, they don’t even call to cancel. How you react to that situation can greatly impact your happiness. Those that immediately decide that the other person was being malicious, are a lot less happy than those who gave the benefit of the doubt. The researchers suggest that giving people the benefit of the doubt will greatly improve your relationships as well as increase your sense of well-being!

It was as though I heard the LORD whisper to me, “This is part of your quest, part of the path to seeing others as I see them. Part of seeing the beautiful.”

You see, if there is ugliness in my heart I can’t see the beautiful. If there is condemnation, I will only see the garbage, piles and piles of it. But when I begin to train my eye, I begin to see beyond the shadows – to the flowers in the cracks. My view of the world changes, one beautiful person at a time.

Will you come with me? Come on my quest to change the world? To see God’s creation in glorious living colour, to see beyond the garbage, to see every person the way their Father sees them. A daily life of seeing miracles in the mundane!

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