A friend recently reminded me of the classic movie Dead Poet’s Society, where Robin Williams plays the role of an eccentric professor, come to change the way education is done at an elite boarding school for boys. If you haven’t seen it, you must – and I’ll try not to give anything away. Here's the gist of it: in trying to get his students to think in new ways rather than accept what they’re told, Williams’ character adopts some rather unorthodox teaching methods. At one point, this includes demonstrating the power of gaining a new perspective on life by standing up on his desk.
“You see, the world looks very different from up here,” he says. “You don’t believe me? Come see for yourselves.”
He invites the students into the experience, having them take turns to view the same classroom they sit in every day, but from an entirely new standpoint. It’s a brilliant scene, and it certainly does make you consider what a change in perspective can do to the way we process our experiences.
For me, this reminder came at a time I needed it more than I anticipated. I was entering into a season that would be more difficult than most as a number of situations were beginning to really wear on me. I was getting bogged down by the churning of wheels at work, and discouraged by the apparent lack of fruit it produced. I was experiencing a new level of uncertainty for the direction in which my life was headed. And of course - the familiar tale of facing challenges with the landlord.
This was an unprecedented low in my landlord struggles, though. After seeing their complete disregard for several of my needs over the past few months, our tense relationship hit its boiling point when my kitchen flooded with what appeared to be septic waste last weekend. We'd had issues with our plumbing in the past, but nothing quite like this. As usual, my landlord was unwilling to help or accept that the infrastructure was at fault - and so I spent the entire day paying plumbers for failed attempts at fixing the problem, meanwhile barely able to breathe in my own home. It no longer felt like home honestly, and I was at my wit's end. I wasn't sure how I was even going to face the next day.
The morning came with quite a surprise, though. My landlord showed up with his own plumber, who fixed the issue in 30 minutes. We got help cleaning the place up, the kitchen was usable again, and the house was spotless. Everything went so smoothly, I could barely believe it! I took a moment to turn to God then, in gratitude for this perfectly wonderful gift of a day - a day He so clearly knew I needed. And the response came immediately; a still, small voice convicting me in gentle kindness "Yesterday was a gift from Me, too. I was the same yesterday as I am today."
It took me a moment to process this truth. I was being reminded gently but firmly that my joy doesn't need to be derived by my circumstances. Reminded to step out of the perspective I was so used to viewing everything from – to step up onto the desk, you could say – and see things from the perspective of the gospel. To know that every part of my circumstances, both within and outside of my control, are purposed to grant me an opportunity to know Christ more.
My living situation was stealing my joy and my peace because I was allowing it to. I was determined to have my needs met without pausing to recognise that I have everything I need in the One who hems me in, behind and before. And when difficulties arise, as they so often do, how different would our experience be if we were to turn to Christ and seek out His purpose in walking us through that trial?
This is my prayer, for myself and for anyone reading this, that our hearts' instinct would be to see our experiences from this perspective. And, as Charles Spurgeon so beautifully put it, to "learn to kiss the wave that throws [us] against the Rock of Ages."
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul,” Paul says of the gospel, “firm and secure.” Sometimes we just need to gain the higher ground to see it.