The West Wing is one of my all-time favorite TV series. I’ve seen every episode at least three times, and am currently working my way through another full run-through while I sew in the afternoons. In season two, the press secretary, CJ Cregg (Allison Janney), has a little encounter with the Organization of Cartographers for Social Equality. The mapmakers highlight the inaccuracies in scale and proportion of our current world map. CJ’s mind is consequently blown, especially when they propose to flip the northern and southern hemispheres – to put the south on the “top” and the north on the “bottom” of the map.
“You can’t do that – it’s freakin’ me out.” CJ flatly pronounced.
I hear that, CJ. When the whole world gets flipped upside down, when you’re not sure which way is up, it’s pretty freaky. Disorienting. Traumatizing, even. Generally speaking, we humans like walking on solid ground; we like having our bearings.
In a moment of clarity, years later, have you ever looked back on a topsy-turvy season of your life and realized how God worked so powerfully through it, and it blows your mind? Have you ever wondered how God saw you then and sees you now? Ever wondered if His vision is nothing like yours?
He is, after all, the author of the Upside Down Kingdom, as some like to call it. (Jesus certainly lived that way.) Where the least is greatest, the wisest is a fool, the poor are rich, death leads to life, the weak are made strong, the humble are raised up, and the most sinful human can be called righteous by God.
In her lovely work Walking on Water, Madeline L’Engle reminds me that our eyes see everything upside down. I’m not sure how I could forget this, as I spent an entire semester in college studying the eye. But she mentions the physiological fact that our eyes actually see upside down, and then our brains take the images and translate them to right side up. (Maybe left side up was her point, which I also appreciate as a lefty. 🙂
“I don’t understand why we see upside down; I know that nobody has been able to make a camera that doesn’t see upside down, and maybe there’s a message for us in that.” (p. 128)
This function of the eye made me consider again an upside down map, an upside down life, an upside down kingdom. Maybe there is a message in all of this: we were made to see everything upside down after all! Maybe it’s that if we turned off our brains – stopped trying to figure out how to translate everything to right side up, stopped trying to make everything look how it’s “supposed to” – we would more readily see things the way God sees. He’s not always looking at earth with the North Pole at top center — His view is much broader! He doesn’t define success or perfection the way we do, and He doesn’t define “right side up” the way we do, and maybe — could it be? — that’s a really good thing!
I wonder, in your life, is there something God sees in you that looks perfect to Him, yet upside down to you? Perhaps He’s wanting to orient you to His True North – not the one you’ve identified and made your own. Perhaps what you see as emptiness, He sees as pregnant-with-promise fullness; what you see as disappointment, He sees as an opportunity to solidify your hope in Him; what you see as chaos, He sees as a place peace is about to be made known.
Our eyes are, after all, made in His image.
He’s already given us eyes to see… to see everything upside down.
If this resonates with you as it does me, let’s take a moment and ask God to unpack it further: God, what is your perspective on this thing? How do you see the problem? How do you see me? You are always as work in my life – where are you? What hope do you have for my future?
Lay down your logic, and let His image of your life reflect on your mind’s eye. If it’s upside down… maybe that’s exactly what He’s been trying to show you, and He has so much to give you in the midst of it as you embrace His perspective.
God, forgive us for always trying to make things make sense, for projecting our north upon your mysterious ways. If life in the kingdom is meant to be lived and seen upside down, grant us grace to let go of our understanding and fully participate in the adventure, free to fall deeper into your all-knowing arms and give the world a true picture of who You are. Help me tune in to these eyes you’ve given me to see. Thank you for such a gift. I do see… help me in the ways I can’t see.
Speaking of not my will but yours be done… I say it again to my soul: it’s not about me, as if you should do things my way. It’s all about you, Jesus. All this is for you.