In Shakespeare’s tragic play King Lear, an old monarch slowly loses his grip on sanity and begins to believe the worst of virtually everyone around him. As his descent into dementia accelerates, one brave soul tries desperately to help Lear see that his vision of reality is warped, speaking three small but powerful words: “See better, Lear.”
Most of us are neither kings nor, hopefully, going crazy. But no matter where we’re at in our journey, that admonition — see better — is one we would do well to reckon with ourselves.
The way that we look at life and people and everything around us is encapsulated in a word that I suspect most Boundless readers are fairly familiar with: worldview. Now, most of the time, this word gets used in academic contexts to describe, in abstract terms, what a person or a group of people believes. But I think it’s a word that’s worth taking back from the academy because how we see — literally how we view the world — influences everything in our lives.
All of us have a worldview, whether we’re aware of it or not. And that worldview answers several critically important, overlapping questions: What is true? What is good? What is normal? What is acceptable? What is worthy of our attention?
Our worldview is, in all likelihood, a somewhat unconscious, organic thing for most of us. It’s shaped by a patchwork of influences, including family history, national and ethnic identity, political beliefs, the media we consume, economic status, life’s most intense experiences (both good and bad) and, of course, our spiritual convictions.
When Jesus comes into our lives, He’s interested in nothing less than remaking the way we see the world. Like Lear’s faithful friend, He wants us to “see better.” Jesus put it this way in talking about the way we look at the world around us. “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light,” He tells us in Matthew 6:22-23. “But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”
It’s beyond my theological acumen to fully unpack the implications of what Jesus is saying here. But at the very least, He seems to indicate that how we look at life, how we view the world and the people around us, matters a great deal. When we see badly, as Lear did, the consequence is a life “full of darkness.”
So how do we begin to see better? The Apostle Paul gives us a taste of what improving our spiritual eyesight — and thinking and believing differently in the light of Christ — looks like in Romans 12:2: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” To see better, then, we must encounter truth in God’s Word and among His people in such a way that it seeps deeply into our hearts, mind and vision of reality.
I like the way Eugene Peterson puts it in his paraphrase, The Message: “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life — your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life — and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”
For me, the process of “fixing my attention on God” began in earnest when I was in college. That was a season in which I had lots of time to come before God in prayer as well as regularly spending time in His Word. It was a pivotal time for me, as it laid a foundation for the way I look at the world today.
That said, sometimes I still need my spiritual “corrective lens” adjusted. More than two decades after I began walking with God, He regularly uses His Word, His Spirit, His people and the circumstances of my life to nudge my vision back into focus. Because no matter how well I might hope I’m looking at things from His perspective, there’s always room to “see better.”