I'm not sure that I'm really an optimist by nature. At the heart I think I'm a tad cynical and slightly suspicious. Interestingly though, the older I get, the less I'm ruled by that side of my nature.
I think it has to do with my own achilles heel. The very WORST thing in the world to me is being misunderstood. We all desire to be known and accepted for who we truly are. I don't know about you, but worse than being rejected for who I really am is being rejected for something I'm not. It is extremely difficult for me to be misjudged due to a misunderstanding and to not have the opportunity (or the words) to set the situation right.
Unfortunately, it seems to have been my lot in life for as long as I can remember. I never felt really understood by my parents (although my grandfather seemed to "get me," so that helped some). We moved a lot when I was growing up, so I don't have the consistency of long-term relationships that lead to deep understanding.
I've had ministry positions and jobs where I was viewed with suspicion, or judgments were made based on misconstrued events and outright gossip. Too often, by the time the circumstances came to light, there was no correcting the false perceptions so I had to walk away from the situation knowing I'd been misunderstood once again.
I'd like to say that doesn't happen any more, but it seems that as long as I'm willing to put myself out there--to risk building friendships, try to serve in some capacity or another, even to offer encouragement to someone I know needs it--I run the risk of being misunderstood and misjudged. It still hurts.
There's a part of me that wants to shut down. Keep my overtures of friendship to myself. Limit my "service" to the people who live in my house. Withhold the words that I hope will be a healing salve because I don't want to run the risk of having someone take my heart, twist it and throw it back at me as something ugly.
And that's where God steps in. He takes the most elemental aspects of our character and turns them around in a way that goes completely against our nature. But that's the point--it's Super-natural.
I'm glad that despite the deep hurts, He's given me the grace to be able to assume the best even when the same isn't offered to me. While it's true that I'm not blind to the negative things that I encounter--or that are directed toward me--I don't have to respond or operate solely on that level. It is my aim to give others the same benefit of the doubt that He gives me; an awareness that they (and I) are not yet perfect, that He's still at work in me (and them) and that the best I can do is encourage the good and let Him deal with the rest.
Some people consider this an immature or shallow perspective--or worse, fake--but honestly, it's taken a great deal of maturing for me to reach this place. So rather than see each situation in a Hi-Def, warts and all manner, I'll stick with seeing through the filter of eyes that let in His light.
These cookies are called "Pretty Eyes." They are a reminder to me to look for the good and to overlook anything else. The result is a kind of cock-eyed optimism, but that sure beats the alternative.
Your favorite rolled shortbread or sugar cookie dough (packaged dough will work too).
Any jam you like
Preheat oven to recipe specifications.
Roll dough to about 1/4" thickness. With a 3" biscuit cutter or drinking glass, cut overlapping rounds so you get eye-shaped pieces. Gather scraps into a ball, re-roll and cut more eye-shapes until all of dough is used.
With a bottle cap or 1" round cookie cutter, cut a circle from the center of half the eye-shapes.
Place on cookie sheet and bake according to recipe instructions. Cool on wire rack.
When completely cooled, spread the whole cookies with jam and dust the cut-out cookies with confectioners sugar. Top jammy cookie with hole-y cookie.