One day I was sitting in class, lost in my thoughts, when one of the tough guys at our school said, “What are you looking at?” I’d been gazing in his direction, so he presumed I was staring at him.
|Where we look can make a great|
difference in how we see life.
But that question, “What are you looking at?” is valid today. There’s an endless variety of choices for our attention. We have TV programs, an endless array of websites and publications, text messages, billboards, books on any and every topic. Politicians and celebrities share a common demand: “Look at me!”
Recently I read a statement that resonated with me: “If you want to be miserable, look within; distracted, look around; peaceful, look up.” Seems like a good description of many people we encounter every day, even ourselves.
Introspection can be good at times, but as the quote says, too much looking within ourselves can lead to misery. We can become self-critical, self-indulgent or self-pitying, consumed with “me, myself and I” at the expense of others. Someone even created a term for it – navel-gazing.
Then there’s the distraction of continually looking around ourselves. Actor and film director Woody Allen once quipped about being accused of cheating on his “metaphysical exam” because “I was caught looking into the soul of the person next to me.” I’ve never done that, but it’s easy to become consumed with looking at everything happening around us.
When driving, there’s a particular danger of not looking where we should, electing to look at a just-received text, the GPS, or not really looking at anything in particular while engaged in conversations on our smartphones. These days we don’t have to be drunk or under the influence of chemicals to be “driving impaired.” So the adage, “Look where you’re going,” is important.
We become engrossed in learning all we can about the crisis du jour, whether it involves severe weather, terrorism, economic upheaval, or random mayhem. The world around us does seem to be heading to Hades in the proverbial hand basket, and we’re eager to be firsthand witnesses.
Our hobbies and pastimes captivate us, ranging from the Super Bowl and various other major sporting events to vicariously experiencing the lives of people starring in so-called “reality” shows. There’s no shortage of distractions available to us.
But I’ve found the best place of all to look is…up. When I find myself feeling depressed or disheartened, I eventually realize it’s because I’ve spent too much time looking within or looking around. But when I intentionally shift my focus, choosing to look up, I find peace, and hope, and joy, and confidence that things aren’t so bad after all.
Perhaps that’s why the psalmist wrote, “I lift up my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).
Another psalm declares, “I lift up my eyes to you, to you whose throne is in heaven. As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, until he shows us his mercy” (Psalm 123:1-2).
In the midst of uncertainty, sometimes feeling overwhelmed by chaos surrounding us, God offers assurance: “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).