In The Noticer, author Andy Andrews explores how a change in perspective can spark conditions that alter the course of your life. The fictional book contains vignettes about encounters between a mysterious but friendly, generous, and insightful man named Jones and random characters in crisis. These stories are introduced and brought to closure by the narrator whose life has been radically altered through Jones’ friendship, guidance, and support.
I picked up The Noticer to read as part of the United Methodist Women’s reading program. A few of us have been meeting quarterly for the past year to discuss titles we’ve selected from a larger reading list.
We’d like to get more women involved but noticed that some of the selections are tedious to read and difficult to discuss. While we want to grapple with serious topics like human trafficking, we also realized that books telling a story rather than imparting facts and statistics are more likely to be read, enjoyed, and discussed by busy women.
This year, we chose books that were fictional or memoirs. The Noticer fills the category of spiritual growth, though there are just a few references to God.
Here are some lessons from the book:
Our perspective influences our thoughts and actions, which influence our relationships and opportunities
The book demonstrates how the right perspective can influence our reasoning, decision making, words, and actions, which in turn can transform our relationships with family members, friends, coworkers, business partners, and all those we interact with. Loving, generous, and ethical relationships can transform our lives by providing us with understanding of our value plus give us the opportunities to use our talents in productive ways. So, a change in perspective can change the direction of our lives.
Providing the right perspective is the noticer himself, an older yet ageless man called Jones. A prime example of his influence is offered by the narrator and main storyteller who is homeless when they first meet. Jones not only imparts a change in perspective to the depressed and destitute young man but also paves the way for fruitful relationships in the community. Eventually, the narrator becomes a successful businessman, husband and father, and community leader.
Other stories contained in the book show Jones interacting with various people in a similar manner. He facilitates the reconciliation of a couple on the verge of divorce; rescue of a successful professional with a troubled personal life from suicide; and a change of heart for a greedy, deceitful business owner. Through brief but thought-provoking conversations, Jones helps them gain new insights and change behaviors that would otherwise require years of therapy at best or lead to self-destruction at worst.
The advice dispensed by Jones is wise and timeless but the conversations tend to flow according to script with neatly packaged resolutions, which often don’t happen in real life. The people Jones meets embrace change with minimal resistance, whereas many people you and I deal with on a daily basis seem hardhearted and unwilling to budge in thought or action.
Though the book seems contrived in parts, it also offers excellent insights into how people think and what prompts change.
A new perspective can often be sparked by the Holy Spirit, who can use a changed heart, rather than altered circumstances, to achieve transformation
The point of the book is that the changed perspective changes everything. What the author alludes to but doesn’t say is that changed perspective often comes from the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
For example, there have been times that I have been frustrated with a person or a situation that seemed hopeless. To deal with the problem, I might pray for a specific outcome, wisdom to handle the concern, or both. Then, unexpectedly, I will suddenly see the situation from a different angle. Then, I find myself acting differently. Next, I discover that other people now seem willing to support me or understand my point of view, and a difficult problem is resolved.
The chapter-by-chapter discussion guide at the end of the book helps you to see how a change in perspective can change everything. It’s excellent and should spark meaningful conversations. But what’s missing are questions about the role of the Holy Spirit in changing a person’s perspective and changing the trajectory of someone’s life through different thought processes, decision making, relationships, and actions.
To complement the existing questions, here are some that can prompt deeper discussion of how God works in our lives:
- Have you ever received a flash of insight from the Holy Spirit that was life-giving or life-altering?
- Have you ever received a new perspective from the Holy Spirit? And, did you feel comforted, convicted, compelled to act differently, or stirred with compassion?
- What prompted these new perspectives or insights? Did they happen while you were having a conversation with a friend, praying or meditating, reading scripture, listening to a message at church (class discussion, sermon, special speaker, etc.), consuming media (watching television, listening to music, reading a book), or interacting with a new acquaintance or even a stranger?
- When you pray, do you pray for specific outcomes, changes in others’ behavior, or a new perspective, or all of these?
- Have you ever noticed or believed that God went before you or somehow intervened for you to change the heart of another person, particularly in a difficult situation or conflict?
You may not have recognized that your new insight or perspective came from the Holy Spirit. Try to notice next time to consider how and why you’re changing, and whether the change is moving you closer to loving yourself, God, and neighbor.
The Noticer is an excellent choice for a book club or reading group. As you read and discuss, consider how God speaks to you and how God speaks through you to give understanding of how the Holy Spirit moves.