When I was in college studying to become a teacher, a children’s literature class was a requirement. The class demanded a lot as I recall, but what fun to read so many stories and poems that I could put in my toolbox when I started teaching.
One project involved making a poetry collection that needed to be typed up (Yes, no computers back then!), categorized into sections, and collated into a notebook. My dad got involved by suggesting he make a notebook that would be sturdy for use in a classroom. The wooden laminate covered project has stood the test of time and sets on a bookshelf in my home today.
I still recall many of the poems it contains. One of these is by Charles Kingsley who was an English poet from the 1800’s. The short lines made an impact on me that I still periodically recall. The words are these:
“If you want to be miserable think of yourself, about
what you want, what you like, what respect people
ought to pay you and what people think of you.”
I recalled it again today and reflected on what powerful truth it contains. When my focus is solely on myself, I cannot see anyone else accurately nor can I see the Lord. Focusing on myself to the extent implied by Kingsley can lead to depression, self-pity, victimization, blaming, resentment, bitterness, and so much more.
I was often tempted to move to the opposite extreme of never thinking of myself or counting myself worthy of attention or love as I was growing up and the result was still the same because it still focused on what I didn’t have or didn’t get. It still was out of balance with the focus on “I”.
Thankfully, the Lord brought people into my life that helped me see there was a better way, a balance, which could only come when I allowed the Lord to adjust my perspective and my line of sight. I began to recognize how many other people around me dealt with similar feelings no matter what their age or how much bravado appeared to be present when I interacted with them. When I had a better lens to see others more clearly, I listened carefully to what was said as well as what I did not hear. It helped me to stop comparing myself to others and showed me that we all struggle with some level of self-doubt and uncertainty. We all lose people or things we love. None of us experience the fulfillment of all our hopes and dreams. We don’t live in Eden before the fall.
I began to realize that I had spent too long wanting what was taken instead of looking at what was given. That truth opened my heart to overflowing gratitude so that even on my worst days I could discover things granted to me, how much had blessed me. It also freed me to love others better because I had gotten out of the way so it was the Lord’s love that shone versus my own selfish version. I could better give others what I wished for myself without expecting to receive it in return.
Today as I sat with my cup of tea I saw so many evidences of the Lord’s love, grace, and mercy despite the discouraging news all around me. It reminded me of a favorite phrase a precious young woman used to describe them. She called them “God winks”, little reminders of His goodness. These are the antidotes to the problem Kingsley describes.
Look for “God winks” in your day today!
8 So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honorable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. 9 Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.
Philippians 4:8-9 (TPT)