The light though hadn’t changed; it had always been caused by the neighbor’s security light. The only thing that did change was the perception of it, illustrating that there is some truth in the saying that perception is reality as far as it defines our acceptance of and interaction with our surroundings.
This same phenomenon is true regarding Christian understandings of God. If we read Scripture, or if we are trained to see God as an aloof taskmaster who has created arbitrary hoops through which we are expected to jump in order to gain His acceptance, we align our religious thinking along those lines. Christian life becomes essentially a test to see if we can determine the correct rules, adhere to them, and convert others to the same rules. Worship activities become central because the rules for them can be measured and objectively assessed. We can even convert others to our understanding of the rules and correct behaviors we tease from Scripture.
If we see God rather as a loving, giving God; if we understand Scripture as a narrative unfolding of God, we might perceive God as a compassionate God who wants us with Him. As a result, we develop an understanding of reality that is quite different from the one we have just discussed. We see a God that isn’t wrapped up in finite rules, issuing test scenarios that we must negotiate correctly. We see a God whose compassion and intimate knowledge of us causes Him to accept us with our faults and with our wrong or immature understandings of Him and ourselves. Worship activities become almost a secondary response to such a God, following the reality of changed lives and transformed hearts. Our relationships with others become characterized by understanding and acceptance more than attempts to define and enforce divine rules.
As a result of this last perception of God, we are freed to join in God’s compassionate love for, and nurturing acceptance of ourselves and others. Only when we understand God as One who accepts us with our faults can we accept ourselves with those same faults. When we can, we no longer need to hide them or pretend we don’t have any failings. It is only after we have learned this about ourselves that we can most fully enter the lives of others and accept them where they are. Only then can we introduce them to a God that is loving rather than demanding. Only then can we pass to others a perception of God that is similarly freeing and life-giving.
However we perceive God, He does not change. Just as the light outside the window didn’t change, our changing perceptions of it created its own reality. We can to a large degree shape our own reality based on our perception of God and what He is up to. That perceived reality will color our views of ourselves, others, and our calling.
How’s your perception?