I recently photographed my youngest daughter taking some of her first steps. My first pictures were from my perspective – her dad, standing four feet taller than her and looking down at her. I also took a few pictures from her eye-level, capturing the pride on her face as she bravely swung one wobbly foot in front of the other. Then, perhaps out of curiosity, I put the camera on the floor and pointed it up toward her face and captured a few more pictures. When I looked at them later, I couldn’t help but laugh. In the first few pictures from my perspective, she looks like a beautiful one-year old girl. In the pictures taken at her eye-level, you can see her personality shining through. But in the pictures taken from the floor looking up, she appears to be a twenty-foot tall giant!
Three different perspectives yield three different glimpses into who she might be. One of those perspectives is what she looks like in my eyes, one is what she looks like in her own eyes, and one fools the eye entirely.
In Numbers 13, Moses and the Hebrews are standing outside of the Promised Land. They have traveled from Egypt to the land of promise, but it is occupied by someone else – the Canaanites. In order to know what they were going up against, Moses sent a band of spies into the city. The spies spent 40 days among the Canaanites before returning to the Hebrews to give an account of what they found.
“The land is filled with milk and honey,” the spies said. And Caleb, who was among them, said “We must go up and take possession of it, because we are more than able to do it.” But the spies who accompanied Caleb had a very different response.
31 The men who had gone up with Caleb said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.” 32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants; and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (Numbers 13:31-33).
In one account, we have a land of milk and honey. In the other account, a land that devours its inhabitants. Caleb said “we should overtake them now!” while the other spies trembled in fear.
We’re told that the other spies gave a bad report. Do you suppose there were really giants in Canaan? Or do you suppose that the real giants were the fears of the people? Might their fear and anxiety have made their enemies bigger than they were? Is it possible that because they lost perspective of how big God was, they also lost perspective of how small their enemies were?
My guess is that we can all think of times we’ve done that. We’ve stressed over little things. We’ve lost sleep over things that, maybe with hindsight, were not that big. We’ve stared in the face of something small, and imagined that it was far bigger.
A difficult situation – however small – becomes a giant. Fear and anxiety build until the things we face become what appears in our eyes to be insurmountable obstacles.
At times, the vantage point from which we are viewing the challenges we face provides a false account of reality. My daughter is not a giant, and my guess is that the Hebrew spies were not encountering giants, either. They were encountering their own fears and insecurities. Caleb saw the challenge through his own eyes, and he recognized the strength of the Hebrew people. The Hebrew spies, however, saw the challenge before them through the eyes of grasshoppers, and feared that they might be squished under the feet of their enemies.
Imagine what we might see if we sought out God’s perspective, seeing the obstacles through God’s eyes. Perhaps we might discover that the real question isn’t about our survival at all, but about how we will allow God to use us as transformation-agents in a world which desperately needs his touch.
I have more to say about giants and challenges – and in a few days, I’ll post a follow-up article which looks at two of the flesh-and-bone giants that God’s people faced.