The Helping Hand (1881), painted by the French artist Emile Renouf, was introduced to me as a 2nd grade student. Recently, I experienced a flood of joy when I was surprised to see a replica of the painting gracing the wall in a beautiful room at The Houmas House Plantation. The memory of seeing it for the first time, studying about it, and re-connecting with the image delighted me once again. However, upon viewing it as an adult, I discovered a different perspective and I asked myself, “Who is helping whom?”
Commentaries inform us that this painting is of a grandfather and his granddaughter one early morning. It looks like the little girl is trying to row the boat and help her grandfather as they go fishing. See how hard she is concentrating on her job? She thinks she is really helping him. Where is the old man looking? Grandfather, contentedly smoking his pipe, looks at her fondly. He knows that the small strength she has in her arms isn’t really much help in rowing the boat, but he seems to be enjoying letting her try. Look at how her pockets are bulging? What do you think she is carrying in her pockets? What do you notice about the young girl’s eyes?
My perspective is not that she is helping him, but that he is helping her! You see, I am like the girl in the boat. The grandfather is as my heavenly Father and He is helping me on the sea of life. The oars are too large for my tiny hands as my face reflects an intense concentration on the tasks before me. I feel the overshadowing fondness of the one helping me. Though the painting portrays the feeling of early morning, cool weather, and feelings of loneliness displayed on rosy cheeks, I perceive it as a moment of tender “watchful care.”
In the painting we see the girls pockets seem to have something heavy in them. I question myself as to what is in them. My answer…my little treasures. These are the little things that I carry with me everywhere…they are hidden…precious…as if the things a child carries to help them feel secure. As the grandfather looks down, he knows what has been carried aboard. This does not concern him because he also knows that with time, they will no longer be needed as her maturity increases. She will hand them over and let them go freely.
The perspective with which Renouf painted indicates that we are watching from the dock as they row away. Many more observations can be made when looking closely at the details of this painting; inside the boat is dry, there are other boats on the horizon, there is fishing net, a mast is propped on the bow just to list a few. The painting suggests a specific time period. Look at the clothes. The boat has no motor and the fishing equipment is antiquated. There is so much to be considered in order to get a proper perspective on the intent of the artist. Who would have thought that so much information could be gleaned from this one painting?
Studying scripture is much like looking at a painting! Many things need to be considered before getting a clear picture of the passage; but be careful, you don’t want to get a skewed perspective.
Take a look at these skewed images:
These perspectives are easy to identify, but what about one of watching and listening to a pianist or professional musician. You think they are awesome and it appears that music comes to them naturally. Did you ever really stop to consider that it took them a lifetime to learn, study, and practice their art form? The same is with an artist or even literary works. Not all things are seen and understood clearly.
Perception within communication is very important! This past week I was making sure that the high school auditorium was available for my kindergarten musical. When the assistant principal got back with me about its availability, she said that it was already booked! For years, having experienced much trouble with double booking the stage, my initial response was negative. “Yikes, now what will we do?” was the question I emailed her. Her reply, “Sorry. I should have known better than to use passive voice! It is booked by us!” After a brief panic and a sigh of relief, I realized that my perspective on the matter was negative. I assumed that it was booked by someone other than us, not that it had been previously booked by us! Perspective! Important!
Derived from Latin, per = through and specere = to look, (through looking) we get the English word perspective.
Thinking through perspectives in the Bible, I recalled some of my favorite stories:
I experienced a real life example that hit me Sunday morning at church. Perspective? How is it that we can’t see? I don’t see with a holy lens! I would have never thought that the music we sang would or even could have been written by its composer, having known him as a kid. And as I saw and worshipped with the one’s leading, playing guitar and drums, I would have never imagined them to help me enter into the courts with praise! Perspective….once skewed. We don’t see with the love or compassion of Gods eyes. We look on the outward, but God looks at the heart.
1 Sam. 16:7
I wept, elated that God had revealed Himself to those young men. I wept, because I couldn’t see the wonder that God prepared for them. I wept, for myself, because I often have a tainted view of God’s best for me.
I praise God for revealing Himself to those kids, to men of the Bible, and to me. God’s perspective is perfect. He sees the whole. Our vision is dimmed, skewed, partial, and blurred. This is why it is important to ask for a clear revelation, a fresh viewpoint, and holy enlightenment. It is only when He choses to reveal Himself that He can been seen.
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen,
nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man,
the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.
But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit:
for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.
1 Corin. 2: 9,10
So in studying scripture, or even stepping into your day, pray first for a cleansing of personal perspective. In almost all of the above examples, perspectives are unclear without an understanding of the whole picture! Revelation occurred because God declared Himself, He called out, and He made Himself known.
Go to God's word. Look at every Biblical passage as a painting with an array of many colorful details. Become familiar with the background knowledge of history, language, culture, relationships and location when and where it was written. Observe every word and phrase to glean insight. When you have done this, seek to understand how it relates to you and everyday life. Place yourself in the painting! He is a living God and His Word is living, too! Ask the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart and that you would have wisdom to understand and a perspective from Gods heart. You will be amazed at what He so desires to reveal to you. He waits for you to seek and call out. Perspective...take His! Look through His Holy Lens!
Seeking Holy Perspectives,
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