How big is the elephant in your room?
This post is tough because it has to be direct. This is a topic which has been on my heart for a while, and I’ve somewhat avoided writing about it because its a hard one to tackle. Nonetheless, I think there’s something on this and want to share. In particular, I want to talk about blind spots.
Anyone else ever gotten a four-letter horn-blast from the neighboring lane as you about ran someone off the road? Me neither! But I know some people that have done so and swear they had no clue the other vehicle was there. How is it possible to be traveling down the road at speed and completely miss a massive hunk of metal and glass only feet from us? Very easily apparently. Blind spots!
Jesus alluded to this in Matthew 7:3 when he spoke of judging others for having sawdust in their eye when you’ve got a plank in your own. I’ve often used that verse to defend myself against someone else’s judgement, never realizing that I myself could have a plank in my own eye about one thing or another. It just never occurred to me that there are things in my life to which I am oblivious. We can be as honest with ourselves as possible, but its hard to be honest with yourself about something you just can’t see.
You can’t see what you can’t see
Ever walked around all day with food in your teeth? Weren’t you grateful when someone pointed it out finally? Wasn’t it embarrassing to think of how many conversations you had with people who potentially saw the chunk of rotting food just hanging out on your incisors? At least with food, we can look in a mirror. We can make sure our hair is perfect, teeth are straight and gunk-free, and there’s no toilet paper stuck to our shoe. But matters of the heart are not that simple.
There is a way to look in a heart mirror: thankfully many times God is able to break through our hard hearts and blindness and point out issues through scripture or the still small voice. But in my experience, sometimes we are just downright deaf, dumb, and blind to God in our own issues. We think our dysfunction is just the way our brain works, or is normal, or any other excuse in the book. As I have personally learned, sometimes the only way to keep yourself from deception is by believing the people God places in your life more than your thoughts or feelings. Sometimes the only way God can speak to us about our brokenness is through the voice of a friend.
I was married previously in my early twenties. It didn’t end up so well. I won’t bore you with the details, but the pertinent point of the story is that my ex-wife often accused me of being controlling. Well after the marriage had ended, and looking back honestly I was able to recognize my share of the blame. However, I still disagreed with her about the controlling thing. How could I be controlling? None of my actions fit my definition of the word, and I always let her make her own decisions, etc. I was convinced she was just projecting.
Fast forward a few years. I’m remarried to Vicky and we are in ministry school together. I feel a strong burden to make sure she’s pursuing God as much as I am. Her relationship with God doesn’t look how I think it should look, and there’s lots of problems in our marriage that are “obviously her fault.” One day, I’m meeting with another student who was a mentor to me in our revival group, and out of nowhere with zero prior knowledge, he asks me, “Bro, why do you keep trying to fix your wife?” (Did I mention this guy was crazy prophetic? Chris Shaw, if you happen to be reading this – thanks!)
While Vicky, and my revival group pastor had previously tried to address this issue with me, I was oblivious to it. I really had no clue that what I was doing was a problem, let alone “controlling”. It took confrontation from several of the leaders over me, sitting me down and saying “Look, we’re going to have to kick you out if you don’t deal with this” before I finally stopped to wonder if they might be right. I remember thinking to myself that they were way off. It just did not feel true. If it was, why hadn’t God told me?
You have to understand – especially at this time in my life – I was getting revelation from God on a near daily basis. Every day it was a dream or vision or something. It was crazy, exciting, and fresh constantly. It didn’t make sense to me how God could be speaking all of those things to me and completely leave out the fact that I have this gigantic plank in my eye. Thankfully for me (and my marriage), it was time for me to learn about blind spots. They confronted me, but let it up to me to fix it. They didn’t tell me how or what to do. They told me if I was serious enough about fixing it, I would figure it out. While my motivation (not getting kicked out of school) may not have been the best of reasons to fix this particular blind spot, God helped me out anyways.
After seeking prayer from another pastor at the school, I finally came to a point of choosing to believe what these people – who loved me and just wanted the best for me – told me was going on in my life. And then something amazing happened: I saw it. What was not there a moment ago suddenly began blaring its horn and telling me to stay in my own lane. I cleaned up my mess with Vicky and repented for how I had treated her. And as she began to recount once again the ways I had been awful to her, for the first time ever I was able to see it in the light of truth and it broke my heart. I couldn’t believe that for one, I had treated someone I loved so terribly; and two, that I had done so without seeing it for the awful behavior that it was.
This was a turning point in my life. This was the very beginnings of the cracks God put in the walls I had built to protect myself and hide from the world. And it only happened because some people cared enough to confront me about my crap, and I trusted them enough to believe it even when it wasn’t true in my perception.
I learned some things that day: Namely, that it is crucial to my well-being as a person to maintain relationships with people that I trust enough to point out my blind spots. I have to choose to trust certain people more than I trust my own perceptions. I learned that perceptions are informed by the filters through which we see the world, and that not everything I perceive is true.
I learned that when someone approaches me about an issue in my life, I need to stop and think: Why are they talking to me about this? Do they have anything to gain? Do they have skin in the game? What is their motivation? If this is a person I trust and they have no obvious selfish motivation, why else would they be addressing the issue if it wasn’t true. It is in my best interest to take what they’re saying before the Father and confess that I’m limited in my understanding of my own heart. I confess that I need people around me to hold me accountable to my identity in Christ, and that they are seeing something I can’t see at the moment. Every single time I’ve done this, God has opened my eyes to truth and helped me to address the issue. Thankfully, God is able to use others to speak that which we refuse to hear from Him for ourselves.
If you’re interested in learning more, Kris Vallotton has some amazing teachings on this, one of which he shared shortly after I experienced this for myself the first time:
Please understand though that I’m not saying to believe everyone who says you have a problem. Not every voice in your life is true. But the ones that are should be obvious. Listen to those, love Jesus, and you’ll encounter the freedom that is already yours through the cross!