Point of view is crucial. It’s the perspective from which the author decides to tell the story. I always admire the authors who can tell a great story in first person because often those stories can seem less interesting and more monotonous. But in any case, point of view is essential. It determines how the story will be told. Each person has an incomplete and often incorrect perception of a set of events. Authors use point of view to point that out to the reader and fill in the gaps that the character is missing.
I’ve been thinking a lot about point of view this school year, about how a simple perspective shift can change an entire story. It all started when the story of David and Goliath was told to me from a different perspective. We often think of David as the underdog in the story, and let’s face it, he was. But at the same time Goliath was the underdog. It all depends on your perspective. We tend to tell the story from Saul’s point of view whether we realize it or not. In Saul’s mind, David, a little kid, found some stones to fight a giant with. Miraculously, his weapons defeated the enemy. What a victory.
But what happens when we shift the perspective? What happens when we tell the story from David’s point of view? In David’s mind, he wasn’t the underdog. How could he be? He had the Lord of Heaven’s Armies moving before and behind him. Goliath, the man who hurled insults at the Lord’s chosen people, didn’t stand a chance.
It was with this story in mind that I began to read Nehemiah. What an incredible story. At first I was tempted to view him as an underdog, but as I pondered his story, I realized it is just like David’s. Nehemiah was a man still in exile. He had the not-so-glamorous job of being the king’s cup-bearer. Of course, this meant that everyday his life was on the line for a man who held him in captivity. Technically, he wasn’t supposed to speak up in the king’s presence. So the day he made a request of the king, he was risking his life even more than tasting wine to see if it was poisoned.
This is the backdrop that I imagine a film maker would see. An underdog who overcame incredible odds. A man who fought against the powers that be to restore Jerusalem to its former glory.
But this is the wrong perspective. Nehemiah wasn’t an underdog. David wasn’t an underdog. We’ve got to stop viewing those who have been called by God in this way. This is how the world views their stories, but if this is how Christians view them, we will be tempted to give all the credit to the individual characters instead of giving glory to the one who gives them breath and life.
Nehemiah was a cup-bearer. That’s brilliant. Nice work, God. This meant that Nehemiah had the perfect opportunity to ask permission to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem from the one human being who could offer him his blessing and protection. If Nehemiah would have just went out and started construction, he would have faced accusations and persecution from a man who could have him killed in a heart beat and have the wall destroyed. Nehemiah was a man who listened intently to the call of God. Not only did he listen, but he relied on God through every twist and turn in the journey. He prayed before everything, reminding himself that his plans would never succeed unless God was before him and behind him.
He completed the task. He overcame the odds. What an underdog.
No, he’s not an underdog. No Christian is. No person relying on the Holy Spirit, who is led by God is. We fall into this trap often, overwhelmed by fears and insecurities. But we are not the underdogs. How could anyone who is led by the maker of Heaven and Earth be? It all depends on how we tell our stories. When we tell it from the perspective of this, we will be tempted to take credit for everything.
But we didn’t overcome the odds. The odds were always in our favor.
Of course, I don’t mean that every situation will always go our way. We may not always defeat a giant. We may not always complete a giant task perfectly. But we will always have God on our side. Even if situations go a different way than we expect, God is still before us and behind us. In the end, he will be our reward.
So today, I’m going to tell my story from a different perspective. Because I’m not an underdog. I have been called by God. He’s walking in front of me and behind me. He is leading the way, paving the road. Of course the journey will be difficult, but I will never be an underdog.