It seems strange that a person of faith can believe in an all powerful and omnipresent God and not experience Him at work. Perhaps they’ve never thought about God’s on-the-job presence or encountered a sufficiently imaginative theology of vocation.
Or maybe they don’t have the eyes to see it.
Jesus often spoke about a condition where people with perfect vision were unable to see – “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” (Matthew 13:13, NIV) In order to unsettle and heal this spiritual myopia, Jesus spoke to his listeners in parables – real life, often vocationally based, stories that were meant to wake them up to the true nature of the God who was standing right in front of them.
Could it be that Jesus is waking us up today through the parables of our jobs?
When I first encountered the concept of reverse perspective, my spiritual worldview was deeply shaken – and then it was transformed.
I was reading Father Gabriel Bunge’s book on Russian iconographer Andrei Rublev’s famous painting Holy Trinity. For years I had been intrigued by the concept of icons – created things through which we can see, hear or experience God – and I wanted to learn more.
As Bunge was explaining the unsettling perspective of the painting, I had an epiphany. For years I’d wondered why this icon seemed so aesthetically off. The chairs, bodies and footrests all appear as though they are drawn improperly. Maybe the icon painters hadn’t learned about perspective yet! Little did I know that I was the one who wasn’t seeing straight!
Bunge introduces us to the reverse perspective of the icon with these words;
“Icon painting makes use of its own principles. It consciously submits to its own rules and thus renounces much of what is essential for [worldly] painting. So, it rejects what the world considers to be the natural, or central perspective, which issues from the standpoint of the beholder, and chooses what can be considered the unartistic reverse perspective, which forces the beholder to surrender his own standpoint, his sense of distance. Likewise, neither are shapes and objects illuminated from outside, rather they have their own source of light within themselves.” (Bunge, The Rublev Trinity, p45)
Think about the paradoxes of the faith – in order to be first you need to be last, if you want to find life you need to lose it, God accomplished good things through pain and brokenness, the kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. There is so much about Christianity that appears to be upside down or backwards. But now, as I think about this idea of reverse perspective, I wonder if I’m the one who is upside down and backwards.
I was left wondering if I knew anything about reality at all!
For most of my life I’ve been unthinkingly interpreting my experiences from my perspective, as through I was the center of the universe.
No wonder I was unable to fully see or understand what God was doing all around me.
I realized that I needed to surrender my own standpoint.
This is something we all need to do if we want to know God more in our relationships, play, and at work.
We need to realize that we’re not the beholders; we’re the beheld. We’re not the seers; we’re the seen. The ultimate value of the things we accomplish at work is not based on our metrics, but on God’s.
God is the one who sees. He recognizes everything for what it really is. God doesn’t fit into your life or work or community; you fit into his. We’re all protagonists in a meta-story that He is writing.
We need to have our perspectives reversed to get this.
If we want to experience God more at work we need to get a glimpse of how he’s seeing things.
With God’s help, your perceptions, and how you judge your experience of work can change.
Maybe, from God’s perspective, a bad day with a huge failure could be the most productive ever – eternally speaking. Perhaps the humbling was crucial in terms of waking you up to the nature of his grace – how it’s not based on your production. You’re made in the image of a God who willfully made himself less, and went through hardship, in order to love and serve the world best. God is humility. Experiences of humility give you eyes to see this fact.
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Perhaps, from God’s perspective, work that might appear to make little difference can in fact have a huge unseen impact. If you didn’t deliver that parcel then that customer would never have received what they needed to flourish, and who knows what their changed life then went on to impact?
And who’s to say that your definition of value and productivity is the right one? What if God’s greatest goal for your work life is to experience him more via the very nature of what you do? Sure the end product of balanced books are great, but what if God wants you to know his reconciling, ferreting out the errors, bringing financial shalom presence in the doing?
And what if, in those amazing vocational moments – a big discovery, a huge sale, the creation of a beautiful piece of art – you’re also meant to understand reality from God’s perspective? While it may look like you’re the one who got it done, as you witness the event through God’s delighting heart, mind and eyes, you realize that he’s the one who made you with those unique aptitudes, and who holds the timing of all things. What if moments of huge success are meant to be all about God even as they are all about you?
If it is true that we are most human when we know God, then surely work is meant to be a place where we know Him through all we do. Maybe, from God’s perspective, that’s what makes work most meaningful.
Imagine how everything would change if you began to see your work from God’s perspective.