It can be so easy to look at either my small world or the broader world and have my mood and attitude impacted in one direction or another. My thoughts focus on something that pulls me along a path toward positive or negative views of the world, Christianity, so much more, and myself. My thoughts are highly influenced by what I take in through my eyes in the physical environment as well as what they pick up from the interior landscape of my innermost being.
In the physical dimension we rarely notice how wonderfully God has designed us. Each of our eyes has a different line of vision that allows us to see things in three dimensions. We are picking up vast amounts of knowing with little conscious thought about the bits of information bombarding our brain and our perception.
One whole field of psychology (Gestalt) is centered on the premise that the information we take in or observe is subjective and biased because it is experienced from the perspective of the individual person who is looking or taking in that information. I’m sure we have all been reminded of that when witnesses of an accident each report something slightly different or even a great deal different.
This area of science refers to this tendency as “figure-ground”. The concept relates to our tendency to perceive an image in the foreground first, while other images fade into the background. This discrimination in “figure ground” is the ability to perceive what your brain is telling you and determine what you believe is the most important image. It comes because we focus our attention on some aspect of something and it becomes “the figure” and the rest becomes the background.
Photographers love to keep that in mind as they are setting up the shots they want to take and what they want those who will view the photo to focus on. I’m not a professional photographer and I do that as well. I am actually seeking to guide the viewer to see something I see and see something differently I think they may miss.
Why is “figure-ground” important?
It can be a great tool to use to discover what is pulling our thoughts and attitudes in directions that either equip us to face the day’s challenges or defeat us before we leave our bedroom. Are we looking at things with a telephoto lens or a wide-angle lens? The lens we use will make all the difference.
Headlines scream at us and often alarm us. They can become “the figure” and soon we can be drawn into fear, anger, and even hate. A disappointment, wound, or loss can result in the same thing. If we focus on “the figure” long enough, it soon becomes all that we see. We cannot help but see our home, street, block, town, etc. as a central focus. It is where we live. But in doing so have we, have I, forgotten that “ground” of the unseen world of the Kingdom that surrounds us and is where our citizenship lays?
If we lose that, we can easily become discouraged or fearful. More than a few times, scripture reminds all of us about our focus. Here are just a few examples:
Colossians 3:2 (ESV)
2 Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV)
12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
The revealing clue is that what has become “the figure” in our lives, will influence our perception, thought, attitude, mood, choices, and actions.
Each day we need to align our life, perception, thoughts, attitudes, mood, choices, and actions with His lens, His words.
He is “the figure” that must guide each day. Our challenge is not to allow Him to become “the ground” we fail to see.