Saturday, April 3, 2010

Eye of the Beholder

"A picture speaks a thousand words."

But depending on your technique and what you choose to show in the picture, you can easily tell the story "objectively" and yet still create a set of assumptions, exaggerations, and give people a "feel" for the city that may be at best incomplete, if not outright inaccurate.

The picture above was taken, of course, of the city of Tijuana, Baja California Norte, in the beautiful United States of Mexico (the country's actual name). And it's accurate. The cramped housing, with often mere inches separating the houses, the arid desert colours, the seemingly haphazard and random city planning -- it's all accurate.

But it's not the entire picture.

This is another picture of Tijuana. But the angle is different. The viewpoint is from the opposite side of the city, the stunning topography is revealed, under a sky of striking colour and clouds, and like the previous picture, it is an "accurate" rendition of Tijuana.

And yet the picture gives you a completely different "feel" for Tijuana.

One of the first adjustments for living and ministering in a different culture is to learn that we all tend to look at cities, countries, and people through a certain set of lenses. And that we need to often change our perspective. Sometimes this is achieved through simply living there for a season. The "other-ness" of Tijuana fades rather quickly, as you settle in and adjust.

But perhaps the more important change in how we "see" is when we ask God to open our eyes to how He sees Tijuana. To see things from His perspective. To see the people through Jesus' eyes. To notice His fingerprints in the culture. To dare to believe that God has a better vision for the Mexican people than what Fox News, CNN, or the CBC would have us believe.

What do we see when we look around Tijuana? Maybe the better question is: what are we expecting to see, and does that expectation actually make us blind?