Seeing through God’s lens
I once read a quote from a photographer that said, “I don’t take a photo to capture an image; I take a photo to see what the image is.” One of the things I love about photography is the opportunity to reimagine and reinterpret the world. It’s a way of choosing a unique perspective on the ordinary and bringing others to see your perspective.
For example, look at the two photos below. Both photographers took a photo of a leaf but chose unique perspectives. Through framing, angle, focal length, focus, and more, the photographers reimagine something you see every day, something that is so ordinary that you don’t even pay any attention to it.
But even the best photographer has a flawed perspective, because our knowledge and perception are finite. For example, the human visible spectrum only includes a fraction of the colors that exist in nature. God, however, sees things exactly as they are.
I remind myself of that fact often. Whenever I’m down on myself, upset about a mistake I made, a sin I committed, or one of my many flaws, I try to remind myself that I’m not seeing things through God’s lens. I pray that God helps me see myself as He sees me. This, of course, also applies to other people and situations.
Whatever issue is causing dysfunction in your family, whatever caused your most recent argument, whichever trending topic on social media has you outraged, you’re not seeing things completely. Your perspective is limited. I try to remind myself of this and ask God to help me see the situation through His lens.
My church has several sayings that are well-known by the congregation because of their frequent use in sermons. One is the truth that “you have never locked eyes with someone that doesn’t matter deeply to God.” Another is an exhortation for how to think of the people with whom we disagree or even dislike, to “ask God to show me what He had in mind when He made that person.”
Through my church, I am active in ministry in the local county jail, both through volunteering in a Sunday church service and through something we call reGROUP, a recovery ministry that helps people through their hurts, habits, and hang-ups. In both, I spend time talking to inmates, hearing their stories, and praying with them. Some of the inmates are in for what I would call “dumb mistakes,” but some are there because they have done very bad things, the types of things that made society say, ”You must be locked up away from me for my own safety.”
Whenever I pray with one of the inmates, I pray that God will let them see themselves, their family, their friends, and their current situation through His lens. I remind them that they can never fall so low to be beyond God’s grace. I remind them that they are not defined by their sins and mistakes, but by their identity in Christ. And I pray that God show them the people He created them to be and mold their hearts as He transforms them into those people.
The Bible says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come” (2 Corinth 5:17). This truth is especially poignant coming from Paul, who called himself chief of sinners due to his violent persecution of the church prior to his conversion. If God could use Paul, once an ardent enemy of the church, He can use you, He can use those with whom you disagree, He can use anyone with whom you have ever locked eyes.
Digital ministry can seem very impersonal. It’s easy to lose track of the human aspect of ministry when you’re looking at an analytics report. On my team we have a saying: “Every number has a name. Every name has a story. Every story matters to God.”
Every story matters to God no matter what the story is. There are some stories that we just don’t want to hear, don’t want to be a part of, and would really rather not even know about. But even those stories can be part of God’s great redemption story. It’s hard for us to see that because our perspective is limited. In your outreach, in your digital strategies, and in your day-to-day interactions, you should ask God to show you things through His lens and do your part to see things from the perspective He presents.
Photographers use a number of techniques to direct your eyes, to make you focus where they want you to. Shot composition, leading lines, manipulation of the depth of field, the use of patterns, and more are all done to guide your eyes, but it’s up to you as the viewer to follow.
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
- Pray for God to show you things through His lens.
- Apply the wisdom of God’s lens to your outreach strategy.