Fluffy Clouds, Still Goldfinches, and Dirty Windows

Clouds over Cornfield

Up in heaven, a new angel must have been assigned to weather control for southern Wisconsin last week. As a newbie, he’s not quite sure how to maneuver all the clouds and keep the seasons in line. We’ve been covered by some of the biggest, fluffiest clouds I’ve ever seen in my life for the last couple days. But what’s really weird is that we’ve had October weather in July.  Instead of trying to keep cool with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, we’re trying to keep warm with temperatures in the 50s and 60s.

Pond to CondoOn our early morning walk Saturday morning, Mim pointed out two bright yellow goldfinches high in a tree just down the road from us. However, as we got closer, we discovered that the finches were two bright yellow leaves near the treetop. Even the tree was fooled by this weather! And we were fooled by the early-changing leaves. As we walked closer to the tree, our perspective changed, and we could see that the yellow dots were leaves. That’s why the “goldfinches” didn’t fly away when they saw us coming.

Perspective sharpens or distorts reality for us all the time. Way back in the time of the Roman Empire, Marcus Aurelius said, “Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” But for some reason, it’s so easy to forget that “truth.” Whether we’re talking politics, or religion, or today’s news stories.

The Apostle Paul wrote about this phenomenon in 1 Corinthians 13:12-13.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, know him directly just as he knows us! But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love. (The Message paraphrase)

That reminded me of a story I’d read and shared on Facebook last week. I told it to Mim as we walked down the country road:

Clothes LineA young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. “That laundry is not very clean; she doesn’t know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap.” Her husband looks on, remaining silent. Every time her neighbor hangs her wash to dry, the young woman makes the same comments. A month later, the woman is surprised to see a nice clean wash on the line and says to her husband: “Look, she’s finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?” The husband replies, “I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.” And so it is with life… What we see when watching others depends on the clarity of the window through which we look.

Since we know that the window through which we see life is always somewhat dirty, or foggy, or provides some other kind of distortion, perhaps we should remember Paul’s advice, “Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”

To “love extravagantly” may be for me to give the benefit of the doubt to the neighbor hanging up “dirty” laundry, to recognize that I may not have the complete “truth.” Or, for me to trust that my nephew who consistently supports the “wrong” side of every political issue that I care about, really is making the wisest judgments possible, given the “truths” he sees. Maybe the windows we’re each looking through just have different smudges.

After all, even the two bright yellow leaves on the tree acted upon their perception of October in July, not on the “truth” of a new weather control angel in heaven still getting used to the controls.

Yellow Leaves on Green Tree

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