Seeing Things from 30,000 Feet—a “How To” Guide

This should be brief, but hopefully helpful. As I type this right now, I’m on a plane flying at 30,000 feet. (Technically, the pilot says it’s about 33,000 feet, but round figures are so attractive.) The plane is experiencing a little turbulence, but, frankly, I like it that way. It reminds me I’m literally flying through the air.

The pilot’s announcement a moment ago reminded me of the common bit of advice that we should try sometimes to see things at 30,000 feet—or 20,000, or 35,000, or whatever figure the wisdom-dispenser is using for his current version of the advice. It’s a nice metaphor, and I’ve used it before for one of our TW commentaries years ago. I’ll add a link later if I can find it. [UPDATE: Found it! But ignore it right now. Keep reading. Younger me can wait. Read this from older me.] The point, quickly summarized, is that you often really do need to see the larger picture to put details in perspective. Just like you can see so much more of the world from 30,000 feet in the air, sometimes you need to consider your own situation from a much larger perspective—as if you were not so close to it, but instead were flying above it and taking in all the surrounding and related issues. Then, with that perspective, as you zoom in, the details are better understood in the context of other issues.

As a metaphor, it’s used commonly enough to be considered cliché to a certain extent. Yet, I still find it helpful. But that is not what this post is about.

Rather, I want to take here the step I often don’t when I recommend getting a “30,000 feet” sort of perspective: Just how do you go about doing that?

I mean, right now, according to the pilot, we’re at 33,000 feet, which is more than six miles in the air. That’s not exactly something I know how to do on my own—that is, beyond the instructions “Buy ticket, get on plane, and sit politely while praying for pilot’s competence.”

And it’s the same thing with getting that larger perspective. If you’re still young—say, a teenager or young adult—a larger, grander perspective is hard. It’s not your fault—you can only live as much life as you have been given to live. So many of your biggest experiences still lie ahead. I hope you take advantage of every opportunity to learn life lessons that you are given, but there are only so many you can be given without having lived a longer life. So, can you access a “grander, greater, 30,000 feet” sort of perspective when you’ve barely had time in life to climb to get a “moderately higher, better than nothing, 1,000 feet” sort of perspective?

The same way I got to be flying through the air six-plus miles above the ground right now: By relying on other people.

We all have people given to us in our lives who do have the perspective we seek to gain. Most of you still have access to your parents, who have lived longer lives and have experienced more of life’s challenges than you have. Then there are grandparents, uncles, and aunts. Even big brothers and big sisters can provide some perspective we don’t have (even if it is hard to admit sometimes). Most of us have access in one way or another to a minister in God’s Church, who has been placed in our congregation by God specifically for helping his flock gain a larger perspective. And, of course, God has the ultimate perspective, and He’s taken the time to help teach us that perspective in His book.

I couldn’t be at this altitude, currently seeing the planet below me with such an encompassing point of view if it were not for the pilots, technical crews, and other airport staff that make the modern-day miracle of run-of-the-mill flight possible. And you aren’t expected to figure out how to see things with such a “big picture” perspective all by yourself either. God works with us as individuals, true, but He often works with us and teaches us through the wisdom and experience of the family and community He’s blessed us with. We just have to be willing to seek out the perspective they have to give.

And the effort is worth it. Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” So, go get it. The view is worth it, and it truly transforms how you see things once you’re back on the ground.