An identity crisis happens when the reality you are seeing doesn’t fit with the way you think things should be.
I remember sharply the day when Leeanne and I both picked up our new glasses.
Neither of us had worn glasses before, yet both of us needed what the Optometrist called “progressive” lenses, which are glasses that help both with distance and reading.
When you put on progressive glasses for the first time it is rarely a simple process. It is normal to have to live in a strange blurry/sharp world for up to two weeks while our brains can orientate.
Starting to wear glasses is a pretty unique experience, all of a sudden the world looks different and at the same time people see you differently. I was told twice that I look a lot smarter (I’m not sure what that means for how I look without glasses), and my son reckoned that I finally look like a pastor.
Putting on new glasses is a reminder of just how much my experience of the world changes depending on my point of view. So much of how I experience the world is affected by the simple act of looking through progressive lenses.
Since I started this blog I’ve been sharing my wrestle with what it actually means to have faith. I know that faith and belief are often used interchangeably, but I don’t think its that simple.
Belief is often unconscious. Before I had the glasses, I believed the world I was seeing was the world as it was. When the optometrist asked me to read the bottom line on the eye chart, I confidently rattled off the sequence of letters as I saw them. When he put lenses in front of my eyes I discovered the P was actually an F and the O was a C. I was confident, but I was wrong. My belief in what was real was shaped by how I saw it, and I had no clue there was anything wrong with how I was seeing things.
A large part of the reason I had stopped writing the blog was that I had lost faith in my ability to see. A large part of what I thought to be normal had changed. My words sounded hollow.
My last few years have felt like this past week, constantly having to adjust how I looked at the world.
North Americans, and particularly Canadians see the world differently to Australians. That would have been enough, but it wasn’t only the cultural lenses that changed, I found myself questioning many of the assumptions behind my ministry over the previous 21 years and the to top it off I ended up in church ministry, something I would never have imagined even four years ago.
Fundamentally, we live life from our own perspectives, assuming the way we see the world is the world as it is, but every now and then we are given a new set of lenses, through exposure to different views or periods of disillusionment that highlight fundamental flaws in our own worldview.
That what the last few years have felt like. I can see that it hasn’t been bad, I am now seeing many things more clearly, its just that the process to gain that sight has been disorientating and confronting, much like these glasses.
I have been learning so much. It has been very good for me to be hanging out with people who see things differently to me. I have particularly appreciated working with a team of very different personalities.
I have seen more clearly than ever that faith is not so much about belief, but about the very way you see. It is how you see which dramatically impacts your belief, and its your belief that impacts your actions.
This is not a new idea. It is a theme right the way through the bible. The English Standard Version of the bible has 671 references to “see,” “saw” has 290, “sight” has 273, “look” has 199, “eye” has 83 and“blind” has 75 direct references.
In fact one of the core themes of the bible is that humanity chose to see the world from their own perspective (The promise at the heart of the fall in Genesis chapter 3:4-7 was that Adam and Eve’s “eyes will be opened”), and the biblical narrative is a whole arc that ends in the final chapter of Revelation that promises we will no longer need the sun or a lamp to see, because Jesus will be the source of our sight. What was lost in the Garden will be restored, just as Jesus promised as he launched his ministry by quoting Isaiah 61, claiming to have come in order to restore the sight of the blind.
I am looking forward to that moment when what is real is finally fully revealed, when we are no longer looking though an opaque glass, but this journey is teaching me that its not just about waiting for then. The journey of faith is a constant process of self-discovery, and discovery about the world that is always challenging what we think to be normal.
I can understand why some people like to live in a world of certainty and avoid anything that would challenge their worldview.
It is understandable but it is the opposite of faith, and its a way of living that holds us back from living a whole life.
I’ve now adjusted to the glasses, but I hope I will keep adjusting to the real world as I open myself to who God really is.