I treated my last week in Italy as something of a mini sabbatical. It was a rare time that I didn’t have to do anything for anyone else other than teach three hours a day. I used the rest of the time to journal, pray, minister with CRU staff to Italian students, and doing some planning of my next book. It’s a season of transition, and those are good, but scary, too, so I needed this time to worship, cry, and press into Jesus.
One of the things I’ve spent time considering is the thoughts that I get trapped in. You know the ones. The messages that tear me down. The lens that I’ll sometimes get stuck in. So I’ve been thinking about how to change those cycles and patterns.
There are two ways: look up and look out.
- Look UP: When I look up, I lose the intense focus on me. I lose the focus on things that don’t matter. It broadens my perspective to lift my gaze from the details to what matters.
One thing about being in Italy is I’m always telling someone (or myself), “look up.” You’ll miss so much if you don’t look at the ceilings that are painted or mosiaced. Truly in each building pause to look up or you may miss something. Or if you don’t look up on the street to see random alters and paintings and plaques letting you know who lived there. Look up. It’ll bring you back to the moment. (Both pictures are of ceilings–the Siena Duomo)
2. Look OUT: Looking out removes the focus from me by looking at others near and far. The day Eric headed back to the States, I listened to the sermon at our home church, thinking about my week alone in Italy. The pastor talked about being a witness everywhere–even when we travel abroad. I had to smile, because I’m using part of my time this week to meet with Italian university students and hopefully help a ministry further the conversation with them. This is uncomfortable for me, but I knew it was something I wanted to do. It also means seeing beyond my door.
It means noticing the landscape of your life. The hills and valleys. The wildernesses where you weren’t sure where God was and what He was up to. The mountaintops you didn’t want to leave because He was so close. Noticing the layers of your life. Not the inward focused, limited perspective.
It means seeing those around you who need to see you be the hands and feet of Jesus. Asking God to help you really see people as He sees them. To have His heart for them. Asking Him to break your heart for the things that break His. Taking the risk of being moved by the things you see in the world and actually doing something about them.
How can you break cycles and look up and out today?