“I lived my life looking through a straw,” said the wise woman next to me. I do not remember anything else she shared because I got lost in the idea of looking at life through a straw and the countless times and ways I have been guilty of just that.

A straw is something easy to hold, put in your back pocket and pull out whenever needed. Down the long shoot, it provides a focused view of things. It’s also easy to carry around and use at a moment’s notice.

The problem is that while it focuses our attention, it limits our perspective. While it makes us see something specific, it keeps us from seeing things off to the side. To limit distractions is also to eliminate context. A limited view can comfort, but it can also distort. Looking back over the times I used a straw to view things, I can see the problem with such a device:

I saw one moment and thought it was an entire chapter. I looked at a chapter and thought it the entire book.

I saw a conversation (or interaction) and made it an entire day. I saw a day and thought it a job; I saw a job and thought it a life.

I looked at stumbles and thought I was incapable. I saw mistakes as all-defining, and problems as all-encompassing.

I looked at the actions of someone and saw an entire person. I heard one’s opinion and thought I knew them fully.

The problem was not the moment, conversation, or person . . . it was the straw. I now see the need to put the straw down and look through something wider, something that sees beyond. Such a perspective broadens the world, making room not only for surprises but grace.

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