Thursday, May 16, 2019

A Matter of Perspective

After Solomon, Rehoboam becomes king of God's people and very early on in his reign, a telling scene takes place. Rehoboam has to figure out who he's going to listen to - his elders or his friends.

He first seeks the counsel of his elders, of men who served his father wisely and well for a number of years and have been part of seeing the kingdom of God prosper. Life is pretty good in Israel, relatively speaking, and that's due to the way things have been run under the kingship of Solomon. That's not to say that it's always come easy; there were many tough decisions that had to be made along the way, and even some errors, but these elders are the men who were there to make them. They're the ones who have invested the energies to get it right, have corrected when they've gotten it wrong, and have learned to seek the Lord in all things. Naturally, Rehoboam asks them for their advice...and he gets it.

But then, he turns around and asks his friends. Friends who are his own age, who have only known what he knows. They know how good life in Israel has been because they've lived it, but they haven't really had to work for it. So they are only really interested in securing their own place and position, in making sure their good life continues. And the best way to make sure things don't change is to control them with a heavy hand, which is exactly what they advise Rehoboam to do - rule with an iron fist. Maximize your power. Make sure the people know who's in charge here - and it's you. 

He takes the advice of his friends, and it ruins everything.

It's a natural temptation for us, though, even though it competes against our own wisdom. Most of us know that life is better seen in hindsight. It's 20/20 when you can look back and see how you got here and begin to understand things you never even noticed or knew while they were happening. We understanding, instinctively and through our own experience, that having lived life gives you a different perspective on it and you know more today than you knew then, often even concluding that if you were given the chance to do it over, you'd do it differently. (Or sometimes, you wouldn't.) 

And yet, when we're looking to make decisions, we don't often look to those who have had to make them before. We don't look to those who have already traveled these roads. We don't look to those who are looking back on where we are now, having the benefit of 20/20 vision for what we're about to enter because it's in their rearview mirror.

When it comes to making our life choices, when we're staring ahead down the road that stretches before us, most of us don't ask those who are looking back at us; we ask those who are standing next to us. Because we want the perspective of someone who's seeing what we're seeing. Someone who's looking at what we're looking at. 

From here, we're staring at the same horizon. From here, we're looking into the same future. From here, we have a common starting point, a place from which we have a fellowship, just by nature of being right here together. That's valuable to us. It seems that way. 

From here, it looks like the variables are the same. We can look out and see point A and know how to reference it to someone standing next to us. Someone further down the road? It may look completely different to them, and we never seem like we're talking about the same thing. We are, but we just don't understand that they see what we can't see, and we think they're not seeing what we're looking at. 

So it's tempting to ask someone who's standing where we are. Our friends, not our elders. Even though we know that when we become elders, we will know better, by virtue of having lived it. Right now, it doesn't seem that way, and we forget our own wisdom. 

Like Rehoboam, it leads us astray. 

So who are you asking for advice? Are you asking your elders or your friends? And who are you listening to when you hear them? Is it possible that someone else is seeing what you can't even imagine yet? Can you trust them if they are? 

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