The trouble with the biopter adjustment ring

Photo credit: Bruce Stokes
Photo credit: Bruce Stokes

I went birding with a friend and my mom recently, and excitedly twisted and turned the little dial at the top end of one of the binocular lenses to see the beautiful colors and patterns of the many orioles, pine warblers, yellow-breasted warblers, cowbirds, red-winged blackbirds, and the one indigo bunting we saw. Giddy as I was (because you know how I am about wildlife, if you read these posts regularly), I struggled with the focus. Sometimes one eye could see everything while the other saw only a fuzzy blob. Sometimes I could see clearly but only close-up or far away. Each time we eyed the next fleeting feathered friend, I turned and twisted with all my will until the birds appeared as fine as I could make them, but the focus, I knew, was never quite as clear as it should be. Sometimes, it just seemed easier to look from a distance than try to get the more intimate viewpoint.

The next time I went birding with my friend, he happened to notice that I had been turning and twisting the biopter adjustment ring, and NOT the actual focusing ring. So yeah, no wonder I couldn’t see the beauty of the birds. My focus was all wrong.

And that’s how it often is with the people who are most important to us. No matter how crushingly in love I am and you are at this moment with our wife, husband, toddler, teenager, mother, father, dearest friend, cat, dog, or pet pig, there’s gonna be a day when it’s easier – so MUCH easier – to pay more attention to the things about them that make us crazy in the worst way than the things we once adored. And no matter how ideal we know our boss, teacher, neighbor, coworker, child’s baseball coach, parent’s care-giver, or babysitter is, there will be times when we want nothing more than to trade up. Like me with my binoculars that day, we’re not focusing on the right things.

Long ago someone taught me this: when I think I want to trade in, take some a few weeks to speak out loud the things I appreciate – not love, not adore, not even like, but the things for which I am undeniably grateful – about that person (and it had to be out loud, too, for our thoughts become our words and our words become our beliefs and our focus), and that in time I’d notice a shift in my perspective, and eventually, my heart.

Doubtful, but willing, I tried it, and I learned that the right focus has transformative powers. It might go something like this: Thank you God (or for you it might be some other higher power, or none at all) that my wife does such an amazing job taking care of the house and the yard and the kids so that I can work during the day and enjoy my evenings with her and our kids; that my husband is faithful and a man of strong character and that we share the same critical values; that my daughter has a strong sense of responsibility, is willfully independent and cannot tell a lie even if she tried; or that my boss is a person of integrity and is introspective, and compassionate; or that my neighbor really cares about the neighborhood; or that my cat is too adorable for words and enjoys my company more than any human I know. And so on. (And notice how there was never any “…even though they do this really annoying thing that I positively can’t stand for even one more second?” Nope, none of that. Don’t even give that stuff a moment’s attention).

It sounds silly, I know. Ridiculous, even. But when you actively seek to focus on the good about a person or situation, your energy and focus is diverted away from the imperfections. You spend so much time, effort, and words on what you appreciate and what you’re glad of, that what you don’t or aren’t, fades from view until it’s barely recognizable. A more intimate viewpoint replaces the easy one.

With the binoculars, once I found the proper dial, my focus improved immediately. This…. takes more time. But it is life-changing, marriage-saving, friendship-building, job-keeping, relationship-feeding, and all sorts of other awesome things along those lines. It’s amazing how much better you see when you’re focused on the right things.


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