We all only see the world through our own limited view. Often we see the world through the eyes of religion, opinion, past experience, future expectations, tradition, superstition or even just the media…all of which are limited and can be completely wrong.
There is a quote from a movie, Dr Strange, which goes a bit like this…”You have spent your whole life looking at the world through a key hole, constantly trying to enlarge the key hole to give you a better view, but then when some one comes along with something that will help you to see, you reject all possibility that they could be right”.
This is so often the case when we are presented with a viewpoint different to ours. We all like to think we are right, believing what we want to believe or what we prefer to believe. Most of us do not like to think we are wrong or that we have been wrong, but the reality is, we have all been wrong and we will all be wrong again. The only way we can be right more often, is either by direction revelation (God showing us things), by deliberately learning new things and/or by listening to more people, especially genuine experts. We also need to learn to think more broadly, more often and to think better.
Automatically and un-thoughtfully dis-agreeing with people has been a huge downfall in my own personal learning in the past, I am trying to not repeat these and other patterns. Over the last 2, maybe 3 years, I think I have possibly learned more, or perhaps learned in a much more concentrated and deliberately focused manner, than I ever have before. I have read much on how we learn, psychology, economics, determination and other factors that influence success.
Salvation was a huge learning curve. Burying into the bible, reading it from cover to cover over a 100 times (5-7 times per year), 3 years of bible College and the early years of ministry were huge learning curves and absolutely foundational as a young christian.
Then 15 years of living and ministering cross culturally, moving from the first world to a squatter area in the third world, was like leaving earth as we knew it and moving to mars, another huge learning curve.
We all have such different experiences that shape us and make us who we are, but the journey never ends and even with all that we know, experience and learn, we all still only see a tiny slither of the world.
1 Cor’ 13:12 – everything we know, we know in part, we see in a mirror dimly, “putting away” certain limiting things and thought patterns is a huge part of seeing more or seeing things more clearly.
Proverbs tells us that as a man thinks, so he is. I don’t want a small life, so I cannot afford a small mind or a small thought life, it must expand in as many ways as it can. Everything gets renewed as we renew our minds. Our lives are transformed as we renew our minds. Habits are broken, patterns can be reshaped. I think change starts in the mind. It’s often just a thought that we begin to pursue, which can potentially lead us to another level of understand or knowledge, which, once applied can change our life.
By living the way we live, we have definitely learnt some amazing things and had experiences that we would never have had otherwise, but in other areas, I do think our lives have shrunk. Often the desire to learn and grow, the determination to push forward seems to gradually get squeezed out of the poor by the continual hardships of poverty. Step by step they often begin to settle for less and less. Hope gradually gets replaced by hopelessness. Life can become small and sometimes mind numbing.This does not make poverty a very stimulating environment, especially for us. It can give people a very small world view.
Iron sharpens iron, and to be honest, while we have some good friends here, we don’t get a lot of stimulation from the people we minister to, we love the testimonies and stories, watching peoples lives change, but there is very little intellectual stimulation for us personally in this environment. Outside of the bible, the poor very rarely read books, they often don’t follow world news, don’t get to travel and are often un-interested in new things. David learned to encourage himself in the Lord and I do think that we have learnt that lesson well, you must learn to stir and to motivate yourself.
In the past 3 years I have read maybe 75 books on very varied subjects, taught myself FOREX, become a qualified English teacher, learnt about stocks and shares, building a 200,000+ share portfolio, recently began trading crypto currencies, I have hit the gym 4-5 times per week and seen the ministry expand greatly, so I have “added a lot to my life”…BUT now, more than ever, I WANT TO LEARN. I want to grow, I want to live, I want to know.
Life is very limited if you don’t, or if you won’t, LEARN. A New View makes for a New You. Once you have learnt, you cannot really settle back into less.
15 years here, immersed in a culture that we find oppressive and dysfunctional, in a country that has taken a few very small steps forward, but has also gone backwards in many areas as well, has allowed us to see very positive changes in the lives of the people that we interact with, but, I think if we spent the next 10 years here, we wouldn’t see anywhere near as much continued change as we have seen in the first 15 years. I think that we are nearing the point where we could come in and out a lot more. Maybe doing a focused month or so of ministry a couple of times a year, focused leadership input, then doing some thing else, maybe “somewhere else”. We are also getting to the point where our input will soon be determined and directed by the local leaders that we have raised up.
We have raised up, released and empowered locals. They really never seek our advice or counsel on anything connected to the ministry anymore, which is great, that’s what discipleship is all about…BUT…this all raises questions, what’s next for us? What’s next for me?
We have not finished with the Philippines or the Ministry, but our current role is clearly no longer needed. If we stay here as we are, doing what we have done, I think our lives will shrink and we will begin to limit ourselves, and I want a “bigger life”, not a smaller one.
At the moment I can see clearly what we have done and where we have been, but I can’t stay here, I need a new view.
“Open the eyes of my heart Lord”.
Interesting days ahead.