As my wife did as a child, and still does on occasion, one can lie down on the lawn in the backyard and spend a significant block of time looking at the clouds. As the clouds coalesce and disperse in their traipse across the expansive, mesmerizing, Colorado sky, there are things to be seen. Faces, animals, geometrical shapes all come and go. Some are momentary, and others seem to linger, as if they wanted someone to notice them. I am accustomed to hearing Noel say, “Oh, I see a big dog with a long snout” as we drive down the road. She’s looking at the clouds. Sometimes, hopefully when I’m not driving, I can see what she says she sees. Sometimes I can’t. Sometimes I don’t share the same perspective, and I can’t seem to get a beat on what she’s pointing out.
Perspective. It’s an important concept. We all have our perspectives. Some of my perspectives are similar with other people. I tend to congregate with people who share a similar perspective with me on important issues. I feel comfortable around them, like I can be myself and talk about my perspectives and not get into an argument or be rebuffed or judged. It is also important that I give space for other people to freely enjoy a different perspective. They may actually see a fox in those clouds instead of a dog. Depending on our backgrounds, temperaments, personalities, desires, etc., we can all look at the same thing and have a different perspective on what we see.
There are some issues, however, to which the Scriptures have given us a final answer, a particular perspective. God tells us what the right perspective is, and he doesn’t allow for much if any wiggle room. In those cases in which God has given us his perspective, it is my Christian privilege and obligation to adjust my perspective so that it matches his as much as is humanly possible. This takes time and effort. It is a process of growth, a never-ending process, and one in which I should constantly and intentionally engage.
When I fail to see things from God’s perspective, I can quickly see things that aren’t to my liking. Things I have and things I don’t have – I can easily focus on those things and generate desires, needs, wants, and demands to which I am not entitled. Looking at the clouds of my circumstances, I can see a God who is limited in either his love for me or in his willingness or ability to do for me what I think he should do. These are not God’s perspectives of himself, and these are not the perspectives of him that I should have.
What perspective of God then leads me to satisfaction? This is extremely important in a consumer-oriented society. Marketing no longer attempts to link basic human needs with products or services that can meet those needs. In our culture, marketing attempts to create needs so we might unwittingly see ourselves as bereft of basic human necessities and then lay out the cash or the credit card, so long as I can have it now! How can I live with contentment in a world where nearly everybody else thinks they are entitled to nearly everything because nearly everybody else seems to have nearly everything they might want? What perspective on God might help me be content when such is the state of things?
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The perspective that God gives us of himself to help us live with an inner contentment is that of a shepherd. As our shepherd, he gives us everything we need for life and godliness whether we are walking in the valley of deep darkness or beside still waters. He promises to meet every real need that we have whether we are lying down in green pastures or in the presence of many enemies.
Because the God of all grace and glory is my shepherd, I can look up at the stormy clouds of my life and see the clear shapes of goodness and mercy, as if they were my constant companions, as if they were actually following me, all the days of my life. He is not a stingy, begrudging, scrooge he intends to make me as miserable as he possibly can. He is a shepherd who cares for his sheep, for even me. They are there to be seen, if you have the right perspective.
When I see God as my shepherd, I can be content. This is not only a matter of perspective, it is a matter of having a perspective that is right.