Look Up

The small amount of trouble in our lives too often becomes what defines our lives. We are programmed to focus on what is amiss. We have an itch, we scratch; we’re uncomfortable, we shift our position in our seats. We’re tired, we sleep. Our bladders are full, we do what we need to to solve the problem. We’re hungry, we eat. The problem, the mistake, is not to fix that which is wrong; our mistake is to define our lives, our families, our institutions, our nations on that which is wrong. Lives, families, and institutions are far more than what is not perfect in them.

But we can’t help it after all. We notice everything that is wrong, the black spot on a sea of white is what will catch our eye. We overlook all that is right in the world and our attention is seized by that which is out of place. In a sense, that is commendable. We need to fix what is out of place, to repair what is broken, to salve what is painful. But the mistake we make is to define our existence by what is wrong, to overlook and take for granted everything that is good. We miss so much joy in our fixation on the problems. We are wrong to define, to judge, to criticize and condemn our whole lives, families, and institutions on the basis that they are less than perfect. We need to solve our problems without imagining we are failures because we have problems, because we have not yet achieved perfection, because we have not solved every fault. We must not think that we deserve no praise, that we cannot relax, that we cannot have some fun, because all our problems are not yet solved.

To focus only on problems, to only criticize, to only condemn, is to be a neurotic drudge, a self-righteous prude, an unpleasant and bothersome nag.

If all we see are our problems, then we are not seeing our lives, our families, our institutions, or our nations at all.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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