Perhaps you’ve seen the presentation before. Someone asks you to tell them what you see on the screen. You look, and there is a single black dot in the middle. That is all. The presenter then asks if there is anything more. Once you confirm that the tiny black speck is the only thing there, the presenter then asks about all the white space surrounding the dot. Oh! You never thought about considering that as part of what was there. Now you’re looking at the screen differently.
This is just one of a million ways to introduce the idea of “reframing.” It’s the act of seeing a situation or problem from a different perspective. It can be a very helpful instrument for change. Therapists use it. Life Coaches use it. Leaders use it. And many individuals have turned it into a personal problem-solving tool. The goal is always to find a solution or way forward when confronted with the feeling that you’re limited or stuck.
Viewing circumstances from a different angle will almost always loosen up stiff thinking patterns. In the example above, our minds tend to put a “frame” around the one tiny particle at the center of the screen, and that is all that is consciously acknowledged. A new perspective is gained when the “frame” is stretched outward to encompass the entire screen. Awareness of new space opens the door for new possibilities and, for any potential problem, new solutions. We also see that the dot (or problem) is actually quite small when a new frame opens our eyes to a much larger context.
A New Perspective
I learned to do this long before I knew there was a name for it. As I was hit with problems, fears, and hurts when I first joined YWAM, a wise voice often asked me, “What does Jesus want to teach you in this, Jeff?”
I did not always appreciate this question when I simply wanted to be left alone in my self-pity, anger, or resentment. But after awhile, it started to sink in. Was there a different way of looking at this? Was it possible that God wanted to use this situation to work something good in me? I could rarely see it right away. But by merely asking the question, my ears and heart began to open to a new way to possibly frame whatever issue I was dealing with.
Once I got into the habit of asking myself this, a switch was flipped. It never changed the actual situation. But it certainly shifted something inside me as well as transformed how I viewed God and the world.
An Old Testament story comes to mind. In 2 Kings 6:8-22, the prophet Elisha steps out of his house one morning with his servant to discover that the village they are staying in is surrounded by the Syrian army come to arrest Elisha. The terrified servant begins to freak out. But Elisha calmly prays, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see” (2 Kings 6:17 ESV). Or in other words: “O God, please stretch the frame of his sight that he might see the bigger picture of what you’re doing.” And of course, when God answered this prayer, the servant became aware of an even larger army of angels surrounding the Syrians. Reality did not change. He just saw it differently. He had a new perspective. And that made all the difference in dealing with his fear.
What Do I Need?
The process of reframing has never allowed me to see angels (though I am very open to that). But it has almost always given me sight for something bigger than the small picture of my situation that I began with. God always has new perspective to give each one of us about whatever we’re facing. The question always will be, are we giving Him the opportunity to adjust the frame?
Some, who call themselves Christians, go through their entire lives rarely, if ever, experiencing this new sight of what God is doing or has in mind. There can be many reasons for this. But I have zeroed in on two qualities that are essential.
There is so much more our Heavenly Father wants to show as well as work within and through His children. Giving Him space to speak and reveal requires letting go of the frame you did not realize you were holding onto. So much more awaits us outside the little black dots that we cannot see past.
Go ahead. Ask the question!
“Jesus, what do you want to teach me in this situation?”