Monday, March 5, 2012

Flower Power

(Put on your fuzzy slippers and wrap up in a blanket.  This is a long one.)

My dear Grandma Jane passed away last week.  Saturday I attended her funeral.  A flock of family showed, which laughed and embraced as if we had not been apart. It was a sweet day, celebrating a wonderful, unique woman.

Going to the funeral this weekend brought about a change in perspective, as one usually does.   I often come away from big events reinvigorated to "do" better. I want to read my scriptures more, spend more time with my family, exercise more, appreciate life more.  And I've done those in the past.  I've come out of my epiphanies with new exercise programs, reward charts for my kids, laundry schedules, goals written and so on.

I do well for a while.  Then the reward charts are left untouched and the laundry piles on the treadmill (kill two birds with one stone.)


But, for me, this time was different. The change seemed deeper, more eternal.  I saw my life, myself in layers- like a flower.
The things that I do and say are the petals, visible to all.

My attitude is the fragrance, not as easy to see, but it permeates the air around me.

The center of the flower (the stigma) is what I believe.  The things that I do and my attitude emanate from it,

In the past I have made changes to those three parts of me. Most times I try to change my habits, my actions: what I do.  Sometimes I change my attitude: I try to be more optimistic.  Yet other times I have reevalutated my beliefs and made changes and growth accordingly.

They have all been positive effort, and most often positive results.

But, still, this time I recognizd something different.  I realized that there is an element in which all of these stem from, a part that has influence over all.

It is the stem that holds up the flower, that provides the nourishment and even the direction it faces.

It is my perspective, the way I see myself, others, and even the very purpose of this life.

How I see myself and others affects my attitude (negative or positive), what I say and how I treat myself and others.  My perspective affects everything down to subconscious thoughts, reactions and body language.

For example: Say there is a person I am struggling with.  I'll call him Jack.  I don't particularly like Jack.  He has some bad habits and bad attitudes.  In fact, in my opinion, he isn't a very good guy at all.  He's kind of selfish and rude. So, Jack and I don't really get a long. I try, but it takes work.  A lot of work.

One day I decide I want to be a better person, that I want our relationship to be better, so I try to change some of the things I do to him (the petals). I hold my tongue rather than insult or lash out. I even try to remind myself that Jesus tells us to love everyone, so I try to love him. I tell myself (stigma) that he is probably a nice guy that had some hard times.

If I think deeper, I might even try to change my attitude (aroma)and that I will be rewarded for being the better person.

The result- I am kinder to him, I seem to understand him a bit more, and all in all, he actually doesn't seem that bad. And I totally feel like a better person for it.

But, Jack doesn't change.  After all my efforts, he is still the same.  His personality, his choices, tear down my resolve, and, over time, the feelings of dislike and discord return.

The petals, center and aroma are effected ultimately by what is holding them up and nourishing them.  If that doesn't change, they won't. They survive and thrive thanks to the stem.

So, what if, rather than focusing on the affects or products of the stem, I were to focus on the stem itself- the way I look at Jack. Since our perspective in this life is tainted by it (oh, the irony) the only clear perspective is that of Heavenly Father's.   So, I prayerfully ask that He help me to see Jack, not through my eyes, but through His.

It doesn't come at first, but slowly, as I pray (and humble myself to the fact that I am not always right) I start to see Jack differently. I begin to see him as God does. My heart is softened and I begin to understand.  By default and without planning, this affects how I treat him, what I believe about him, what I say about him and my attitude towards him.  It is all different- all because I see him differently, more clearly.  I see him as God does.

This perspective- seeing through God's eyes- changes everything.  The crucial thing to note is that this kind of eternal perspective is a gift from God.  It is deeper and wider than earthly empathy and understanding.  It is stronger and clearer than anything we can make up ourselves.  His perspective, the truth, will make us free (John 8:32.)  Free to let go of anger, frustration and hate.  Free to let go of judgment and criticism.  Free to forgive. Free to see.  Free to love.

This amazing this is this applies to everything.  As I pray to see myself through His eyes, my attitude about myself (looks, talents, etc) will change, the things I say about myself (disparaging remarks, self-criticism) will change, and the things I do for myself (exercise, read scriptures, forgive) will change.  As I see myself like He does I will be free to love myself unconditionally, to forgive myself of my faults and weaknesses, to celebrate my strengths and talents, and so on.

You can ask those that have heard my speak, and those that know me well, that my favorite word is "Perspective."  I have mentally understood the principle.  But, this weekend something changed. I prayed and asked, and I believe I received His perspective on myself and those around me.

Is it a perfect and clear perspective? No. The water is still a little muddied with my imperfect mind and soul.  But I can tell you that I see things differently.  And because of that, I feel differently, and I want to do differently. And I can tell you that this perspective is a gift from God. It wasn't anything that I obtained on my own.  I know that, because I tried and tried, and could not see past my own earthly experiences and eyes.

Now, I am not saying I've reached some magical or spiritual level above everyone else.  On the contrary: my point is that I didn't do anything  but ask to borrow His eternal vision- his glasses if you will.  He has let me look at those around me through them- even if just a glimpse, and it is enough change me, my center, my petals, my aroma- everything.

This life is so much different, so much more, that what we see or think it is. There are deeper and grander workings afoot.  And we are a part of it- each one of us.

Life is hard.  People are imperfect.  We get disappointed, frustrated and even hurt by the imperfections and wrong choices of men. But, to see all of these as they really are- to see the truth in this life- that is where freedom is.

Perspective is power.  The power to change, forgive, laugh and love. The power to stand by His side and look through His eyes.   Perspective will change my thoughts, actions, beliefs and attitudes.

Perspective is power.  Flower power.