Josh Irby

Live from Sarajevo

What do you see when you look at the world?

For the past two months I have played mailman for the Rest of the World. I held a writing contest where bloggers could respond. Almost 50 did so.

As I read their letters, I realized we don’t all view the world the same way. Some of us see the world as a haunted house full of pitfalls and distractions. Some see the world as a wonderland of potential and possibility. Some see the world as a funeral home filled with sadness and pain.

How do you see the world?


How you see the world determines how you interact with the world. If you see the world as a sinking ship, you put all your energy into escaping with your life. If you see the world as a garden, you roll up your sleeves and start pulling weeds and planting seeds.

How you see the world is important.

Here’s where I am torn. When I look at the world, I see more than one thing. Let me explain.

I see a beautiful world

Wherever I travel, I am confronted with the beauty of the world.

I’ve enjoyed green tea at a riverside teahouse in China and walked on the Great Wall.
I’ve spent the day on a mountain with a goat herder in Morocco and tasted fresh orange juice from the market in Marrakesh.
I’ve ascended the hills of Ouro Preto and eaten myself breathless at a steakhouse in Brazil.
I’ve spent a week on an island in the Adriatic reveling in the olive oil and wine grown on the rocky shores of Dalmatia.

The world is a stunningly beautiful place. Wherever I go, beauty awaits me.

The unique color of a spring flower.
The jutting crag on a mountainside.
The tumbling waters of a river.
The diversity of God’s creation

Add to that the diversity of man’s creativity. Buildings rising tall, or spreading wide, or built into a mountainside, or intricately carved, or painstakingly painted, or cleverly designed.

The world is a beautiful place. As are the people who inhabit it.


I see a beautiful world.

I see a horrible world

During the last century, we have perfected the “art” of killing our neighbors. With one button we can destroy a city of millions. Every day we wake up to war, hatred, and murder.

Technology, which promises a better world, helps us more efficiently destroy each other.

Even though we are wealthier than ever before, nearly 1 billion people in the world are hungry. Every day, children die from curable diseases.

Those with wealth don’t seem any happier than those without. Possessions possess us, divide us, control us. The world is not getting any happier.

And yet, the world is projecting a clear message every day through the media: If you want to be happy, you just need . . .
more wealth (“We have a program for that”),
more beauty (“We have a surgery for that”),
more success (“We have five steps for that”).

If you are not wealthy, or beautiful, or successful you are not good enough.

The world is like that teenage punk you want your daughter to avoid. It’s bad news. I don’t want my children listening to the world’s message.

I see a horrible world.

I see a world in process

Now let’s see if I can bring together my two schizophrenic perspectives of the world. I believe both are true.

The world is disfigured beauty. While every part of the world is marred by brokenness, God’s creative beauty still shines through. Yes there are stories of selfishness, but there are also stories of self-sacrifice. God is not done with the world yet. (tweet that?)

The world is in process. Therefore, we have hope. This is not the end. The ancient ruins will be rebuilt. The devastation of many generations will be repaired. Beauty will take the place of ashes.

The world is not as it once was. But, the world is not as it will be. Creation groans.

Here we stand between two poles. We see the imbedded and potential beauty. We grieve the evident and painful brokenness.

We roll up our sleeves and start pulling weeds. We plant seeds of hope.
We hear the world but don’t listen to it. We love the world but aren’t in love with it.
We work towards what will be without despairing of what is.

And, most of all, we pray.

How do you see the world? I want to hear your perspective.

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