Thursday, October 31, 2013

Noticing the Good

My default mode is to look for error. I have been a perfectionist my whole life--and so my sharp eyes examine carefully to spot flaws. I easily see what's wrong, what's ugly, what doesn't work. This mistake-radar serves me well as an editor; it's less helpful as a mom, a wife, a friend.

Over the last few years, I've been reminded again and again of the need to take a second look. I must learn to see--my own life, others around me, the world at large--through a lens focused on grace. If I am skilled at finding fault, I want to become even more adept at finding beauty. This world is full of ugliness, to be sure--but it is also full of people made in God's image, full of His handiwork, full of His gifts.

I recently read Sam Crabtree's book Practicing Affirmation: God-Centered Praise of Those Who Are Not God. He makes an unconventional argument: "we rob God of praise by not pointing out his reflection in the people he has knit together in his image." Furthermore, when we affirm others, we're actually reflecting God's character ourselves. "Blessing others reflects the image of the Christian’s Father," Crabtree continues. "It’s what Christians do, because it’s what the Father does."

Failing to affirm people--being hyper-critical instead of encouraging--is not only hurtful to them but dishonoring to God. He has created every one of us in His image. And those He has redeemed are walking around with His very Spirit living inside them. If I cannot see something to celebrate and praise, I am believing the lie that He is not at work in His beloved children. I am blind.

Crabtree offers this challenge:
"Generally, our failure to affirm others is not rooted in them, but in us. So ask God for personal transformation, including the development of things like greater alertness (from a heart actively on the lookout for the image of God in others), greater humility (considering others better than yourself), and greater gratefulness (appreciating how God has surrounded you with so many echoes and reflections of himself)."
Part of the journey of "seeing Jesus"--which is only beginning as this 31 Days challenge ends--is a quest to see how He is at work in the lives of those around me. As I have been vigilant in looking for error, I must be vigilant in looking for evidence of grace.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).
It's about noticing. It's about taking note of the truth, the nobility, the rightness, the purity in the ordinary people and things and events in my everyday world. It's about pausing to notice the lovely in the common instead of noticing the ugly in both. It's about looking for something to admire instead of something to criticize. It's about looking for something praiseworthy instead of something to nitpick. And it's about praising the gracious, glorious Savior who is the Source of all that's good.

"Striving to affirm others puts us in the practice of looking at them positively—that is, looking for evidence of God’s work in them. Affirmation changes us before it changes them," Crabtree notes.

I am quick by nature to see what's distasteful, what's broken, what's substandard. Lord, transform my vision. Make me quick to see what's pure, true, noble, right, excellent, lovely, admirable, praiseworthy. In other words, open my eyes to see Jesus.

[This post is part of the series "31 Days of Seeing Jesus"--click here for a list of all posts.]


Danielle said...

This kind of reminds me of what Emily has been writing about--making and seeing art. When "we rob God of praise by not pointing out his reflection in the people he has knit together in his image" we are disregarding HIS art.

Amy said...

oh, great point.