Most of us have a worldview shaped by the experiences we have had, the places where we live, the people surrounding us, and the media that we choose to let in. My worldview is seen through the lens of a middle-aged, white, southern American. I grew up in an upper-middle class family. I lived in a safe and comfortable home. I went to school in an environment where academics were stressed and where minorities were not well represented. Like many others, my worldview could have been very predictable. I could have made it through life with few people who looked, acted, or thought differently from me. Such a limited viewpoint could have handicapped me in a lot of ways.
But my worldview has been broadened along the way. I went to college (thanks to the generosity of my parents.) I learned about important subjects and all about college life. My mind was exposed to learning, to books, and to great thinkers. After college I went to Graduate School where my world continued to expand. I studied hard and learned much.
But education was not the only experience that broadened my perspective. I got married and raised 3 kids. Certainly my perspective broadened. My wife, who understands far more than me about many things, has helped me to grow in a lot of ways. When I raised my children I thought the wisdom would always flow in one direction… from me to them. But I quickly discovered that they had much to teach me about being a father, role model and provider.
I have also benefited from the interaction over the past 3 decades of being a pastor to a lot of people. Being a minister helped me to form opinions, challenge biases, and stretch my understanding about many things. I have also traveled the world. I have spent a lot of time in the third world in places like Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and the developing areas of Brasilia. I have seen real poverty, need, and hunger. I have seen exciting world capitals like London, Rome, Madrid, and Zagreb. I’ve traveled to places like Rio de Janeiro, to the Andes Mountains of Ecuador, strolled the streets of Munich and walked the beautiful beaches of Hawaii.
With every relationship, every learning opportunity, every place visited, I have opened my life to a greater world. I don’t see the world and its people the way I might have once seen it. I hope that I have learned a little more about tolerance, a little more about acceptance, a little more about the value and worth of each person. I hope that I have learned more about how my resources can benefit those in need. And I’m not through looking yet. I have windows yet unopened and thoughts yet unexplored. But here’s what I have figured out along the way… perspective takes intentionality. We grow when we choose to look and listen and explore. It is with open minds and listening ears that we become more than ourselves.
Let me challenge you to open up the window of your mind a little more. Build intentional relationships with people who are very different from you. Read a book written by a writer with whom you may not agree. Volunteer at a local non-profit and give yourself away. Take a mission trip and explore how other people live. It’s a choice. Either we cloister ourselves away and never look beyond our own limited experiences or we create new and mind expanding ones. Go. Risk. Immerse. Explore.