Back when Reese was a tiny baby we were driving to the grocery store. Mindy and I were in the front with Reese in the back. It was about Reese’s bedtime, and we knew she was tired.
Suddenly this noise started coming from Reese’s seat. Reese was gargling her spit. Oh, but there was more. Reese was also speaking high-pitched “words” in her baby language through the spit.
Her spit-phonics made this weird, primal noise that was too hard for me to create myself. I didn’t even want to try. In all honesty, it wasn’t a noise I think I ever want to replicate myself. But Reese was doing it over and over again. Spit-gargle-cooing. Getting into it.
So I said to the backseat, “Reese that’s disgusting.”
At about the same moment Mindy said, “Reese, honey. Jesus loves your singing.”
Perspective matters. And, not all perspectives are created equal. In that moment it was pretty clear that I had the worst perspective in the car – after both Mindy’s and Reese’s.
For a long stretch of time at a congregation I once served, every Sunday morning the city set up a speed trap right next to the entry into our parking lot. Every Sunday I’d pass it at seven in the morning I’d get irked. It bugged me. Sunday morning?! A speed trap at the church?! C’mon!
A friend in the congregation, not knowing my perspective, came up to me one Sunday morning and said, “Isn’t it nice the city put the ‘evil eye’ right next to us every Sunday. It’s kind of the police to make everybody slow down at the church campus and notice we’re here. Who knows? Maybe they’ll come on in and worship.”
Perspective matters. I liked my friend’s better than mine. Still do.
For some reason I can’t remember I was reading an editorial page of Christianity Today from November 2006. The editors cited a study from the American Sociological Review entitled “Social Isolation in America”.
The study claimed that the average American had three close-confidant friends in 1985 and only two in 2004. Further, those reporting no close friends jumped from 10% to 25%. Those reporting a circle of four or five close friends slipped from 33% to around 15%. The study noted that increasingly the close friends people did have were household members and not those from the broader community.
The editorial wondered how the church, “the new community, the friends of Jesus (John 15)," could make Jesus Christ present to a more and more lonely culture.
The editorial talked about all the huge effort and money congregations have spent on programs propelled by slick marketing, or on creating “authentic” high-tech worship services, or on seeking to relate the gospel to a postmodern culture.
What if, they wondered, there was a perspective shift?
What if the church mounted a campaign encouraging each member of the congregation to become a good friend to one or two people outside the congregation during the next year? A good friend who listened and cared just because it was an extension of Jesus’ call to love God and love neighbor. How would that type of perspective shift refocus the way we looked at ministry, at being a Christian?
I suppose allowing our perspectives to shift in important ways is simply part of being alive. And, as much as it pains me when my old, cherished perspectives prove unhelpful, I much prefer being alive to the alternative.
So, sing on, Reese! Sing on!