Driving through town this morning I pulled up at one of the sets lights that punctuate my regular route, taking my place in the short line of cars ahead of me to await the affirming glow of the more pleasing green light that will beckon us all on. How we do love that colour green.
As I was sitting in my car, in the now static line of traffic I did what I usually do and started looking around me, which I try consciously do as often as I can. You see, there’s conscious looking and then there’s unconscious looking.
Unconscious looking is what I think most of us are doing most of the time. Apparently our brains are picking up and processing something like eighty percent of the information around us unconsciously, which means we’re only ever conscious of twenty percent. Even then however, I wonder how much of that twenty percent are we actually paying attention to. What I mean by that is, as I sat at there in my car at the traffic lights attempting to consciously take in as much detail of my surroundings as I could, I became aware that there were an awful lot of thoughts bustling around my the inside of my head trying to force their way to the front of my mind; meaning I had the potential to look at something right in front of me without really seeing it because what I was actually doing was paying more attention to my own thoughts.
So…anyway…there I was, in my car in a line of traffic trying to live life in a better state of awareness (or in more colloquial terms…just being plain nosey), when I looked in my rear view mirror and saw another car pull up behind me and take its place in the growing line of traffic held at bay by the magic of the all too patient red light. As I looked in the mirror I could see the driver of the vehicle behind me quite clearly, and so I started to go through my little mental check list. I’m pretty sure if you’re a driver then you must have one too. You know…you look in the mirror and wonder things like:
Do I know them?
Are they looking at me?
Do they look happy?
Do they look friendly?
Is there car better than mine?
Is their life better than mine?
Why are they looking at me?
You know…that kind of list.
In fact, for us drivers stuck in traffic, there’s also another list; and that’s the list for the person in the car in front, who interestingly is always much more mysterious because all you ever get the chance to see are a brief glimpse of eyes in their rear view mirror and maybe an ear in a wing mirror.
But why am I telling you all this? Well…because, as I sat there looking at the driver behind and trying to get a glimpse of the mysterious driver ahead, it dawned on me: they’re probably both doing that to me! I’m the driver behind that the guy in front is looking at right now! I’m the mysterious dude in the car in front and, as much as I like the idea of being a man of mystery (I should get business cards printed!), I’m not exactly sure I like the idea of someone in front looking at me without me being in complete control of what they are seeing! In this selfie driven, self promotion society we all now live in where most of us are trying so desperately to control how we are represented to other people, it’s a bit disconcerting to be reminded of the fact that there are always people who will be able to see the un-sanitised and un-edited us.
As this little moment of enlightenment dawned on me, I began to try and change my view point in order to see myself from the perspective of the driver of the car in front. What if I could see myself from the rear view mirror of that car, looking back at myself? Who would I see? Would I really know him? Would I look happy? Would I look friendly?
The Apostle Paul once described the people he was writing to as living letters that everyone could read (2 Cor. 3:2), and that’s so true. We are all living letters that people are reading every day in both our actions and our expressions, without us having the opportunity to utter a single word.
I want to be more conscious of myself from the perspective of others. To be able to see myself from a different viewpoint, because I don’t want to get so wrapped up in myself that I lose sight of the fact that I share this planet with other people who are all basically just like me. We’re all the mysterious driver in front that someone wants to know more about as well as being the driver behind, in full view and sometimes blissfully unaware that we’re featuring in somebody else’s rear view mirror.
It’s really all just about perspective, and sometimes it’s helpful to remind ourselves of this so we can begin to fully understand what Jesus meant went He said: