Panoramic Perspective

© 2015 Lynn Abbott

I remember peering out the window of our Dodge Dart, watching all the cars pass us on I-5.  The enormous trucks barreling down the freeway fascinated me.

My mother may have trembled as the trucker’s tail wind caught our vehicle.  She never said.

And I felt no anxiety.  Mom was in the driver’s seat.

It’s amazing what a difference trust makes.  Fast forward a few more years than I’ll ever admit… and picture my son’s driving practice behind the wheel of our aging Ford Taurus. “Mom” was in the passenger seat.

“Stop, stop, stop,” I cried, slamming my foot nearly through the passenger’s floor board.

“Mom…  I got it, ” my teen protested.

Heavy traffic on a Friday afternoon plus the two stop signs he’d slightly overshot did little to buoy my confidence. Don’t even get me started on “Mr. Indianapolis 500” who tailed us on the narrow, windy, shoulder-less road.  I held my breath and gripped my seat.

White knuckles.

…My son, in spite of it all, successfully slid in behind the other cars at the stop light.

We’re gonna die today…no doubt about it.  Just a matter of time.

“Sorry,” I said rather sheepishly. “Friday afternoon traffic makes me nervous.  You’re doing great,” I added, attempting to encourage.

“My driving school instructor would have thought it just fine,” my son complained. “He didn’t mind my stopping later.”

“I know, I know.  But he had an advantage that I don’t… He had a brake on the passenger’s side, and his car was marked as ‘Student Driver.’  It helps, you know,” I self-justified.

“Uh, yeah…”

“Drive straight,” I directed.  “There are some quiet neighborhoods ahead,” I noted with some relief.

Yup.  It matters who’s in the driver’s seat. After all, you can never predict what the other drivers may do and you can’t see what’s around the next bend.

Sigh. Sometimes I wish that I had a panoramic view of life.  Wouldn’t it be nice if you and I could see and prepare for every eventuality?

Of course, I’d scramble to avoid all the “bad” bits. I’d cut out the heavy traffic and never miss the aggressive drivers.  Steep mountain grades are not for me either…  I hate hair-pin turns. And “Falling Rock” signs unnerve me.

Give me an easy, 8-lane, desert, freeway cruise–a straightaway that gives me a clear shot for miles.  True, the scenery may not be as dramatic, but the driving is peaceful. And there’s nothing to obscure the road ahead.

Quite honestly, throughout my life, I’ve yelled, “Stop, stop… I want out of the car…Lemme walk home.”

More times than I can count.

Guess I’ve had a lot of practice. When I started this journey, I had no idea what obstacles awaited.

But come to think of it, perhaps it was better not to know. Not sure how I would have responded had I know all the mountains I would have to climb.

Maybe, it’s best to simply sit back and enjoy the ride– safely in the back seat of my father’s Dodge Dart.

Uh, huh. That’s grace for you.

I kinda imagine that when Jesus called them to follow, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew felt a childlike excitement.   Jesus was going places, and they were happy to ride piggy-back.

And at first, following Him was relatively easy.  While they gave up their steady employment as fishermen, they exchanged their mundane lives for a grand adventure. They studied and learned under the “rabbit of the hour.”

Jesus amassed an enormous following.  He turned water into wine; fed five thousand with five loaves and two fish; and healed every disease.

He taught with authority, and loved the ordinary as well as the outcast.  I suspect it was truly refreshing for a couple of fisherman to be singled out by the Messiah.

But that was then. Obviously, they didn’t know what following Him would ultimately mean.

Fortunately for all of us, grace builds faith gradually.  Abba doesn’t throw us into the deep end.  He doesn’t ask us to drive the sheer cliffs of the Amalfi coast line without first mastering the quiet boulevard in our hometown.

And so it was for Peter, Andrew and the twelve.  It all started with a simple “Come and see Jesus.”

I doubt they fully understood what Jesus meant when He said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.”  Nevertheless, as Andrew clearly said to Simon Peter, they believed,” We have found the Messiah,” (John 1:41).

With each day’s discipleship, they grew to know and trust Him better.  With each miracle, their confidence grew.  Their early walk filled with joy.  They delighted in the presence of the Son of God.

Isn’t that just the way it is when we first come to know Him?  Gently, He leads us.  He nudges us along, encouraging us as we take baby steps of faith.

But as the journey with Christ extends from days into years, the path grows more difficult.  As faith requires more commitment and even brings moments of confusion along uncertain paths, many Christ followers drift away.

That has always been the case.  The disciples watched many turn away in uncertainty and bewilderment.

Even one of the twelve lost confidence as the tide of popularity began to turn, and in fact, Scripture indicates that Judas had never truly placed faith in his Messiah.

Yet, as the path gradually grows narrower and then, begins to wind up the mountain,  genuine faith clings to Christ (Matthew 10:22).  Granted, at times, authentic faith hangs on with white knuckles. But hang on, it does.

After many followers had withdrawn, Jesus asked the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”

Peter’s response sums it up, “Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life,” (John 6:66-67).

The journey had begun on a sunny fishing day, but in time, storm clouds gathered.

Abba doesn’t promise a wide open, thoroughfare.

Would the disciples have followed had they known where the journey would lead?

Well, to be quite frank, I  don’t think they were ready for the cross that first day on the beach when Jesus called, “Follow me.”

However, as Jesus spent more and more time with them and as they came to trust and love Him more, He began to hint of things that were to come.   He often spoke in parables, knowing that they would come to understand the parabolic truth in its entirety when most needed.

Yet, even after 3 years of daily discipleship, most of them hid in fear when the Sanhedrin put Jesus on trial.  On that Passover Eve, only Peter and John dared to stand in the shadows and observe the religious court.

That mountain climb to Calvary was fraught with peril–so much so that even the courageous and devoted Peter stumbled.

And of course,  Judas turned and dropped off altogether.

The other disciples’ journey, however, didn’t end with the cross.  Christ’s resurrection renewed their hope.  In fact, with Christ’s appearing, they stood on a mountaintop. Undoubtedly, they felt they were on top of the world.

Even so, there would be still more descents into valleys of trial and suffering.   Did Jesus spell out the details for them?

Hardly.  Although Jesus warned that they would be hated for His sake, Grace spared them the nitty-gritty.   Instead of describing the gory specifics of persecution and martyrdom, Grace gave them light just enough for the next step.

Jesus commanded them with a promise, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28: 19-20).

That rag-tag bunch of fishermen, a tax collector, a doctor… all were commissioned with an extraordinary task.  Who woulda thunk it possible?

At the journey’s start, they probably never imagined such a possibility.  Both guts and glory for the Savior. Life with and for Christ exceeded their wildest dreams.

Yet, they waited on Abba for specifics.  Thus, they prayed in a Jerusalem upper room for His direction.

That’s right. They took one faith step at a time.

I cannot even begin to imagine their euphoria when Abba sent His Spirit to permanently indwell them.  Up to that moment in history, only Yahweh’s prophets, judges and kings had  been filled with His Spirit, and that for special tasks alone.  The indwelling of God’s Spirit had not been permanent, (Psalm 51:11-12).

But it was the next step.  Grace fulfilled the promise:  “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth…and will tell you what is yet to come,” (John 16:13).

Every detail?  No.  Just what they needed to know then and there.

Later, when they stood before the Jewish religious leaders as had their Savior, they likely remembered Christ’s comforting words, “And when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not be anxious beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit,” (Mark 13:11).

His words now made sense.  His light illuminated the path just when they needed direction most.

Not a moment sooner.

Of course, the road to Abba’s house became increasingly more difficult, despite the breathtaking views from the mountain tops.

Abba gives us a glimpse of the disciples’ lives in the book of Acts.  Peter and the others were well-acquainted with suffering for Christ’s sake.   Persecution and martyrdom defined them.

Each member of that ragged bunch became a larger-than-life, faith hero.

Were they ready for what was to come at the start of their faith walk?  No.  Decidedly not.

Yet, Grace guided them step-by-step. Abba encouraged them with each new passage.  His Word was a “lamp” for their paths (Psalm 119:105).

As I so often jest with my closest friend, Abba doesn’t hand us a searchlight.  He gives us a “lamp.”  He grants light alone for our next step.

Recently, when my heart began to fill with fear concerning the future, I prayed with renewed urgency.  To be perfectly honest, I lay awake until dawn.  My mind whirled.  During that time, I begged my Heavenly Father to protect those I love.   I asked Abba to carry my family safely through gathering storms.

Obviously, I do not know what lies ahead.  None of us do.

Yet, on the following morning,  when I opened Abba’s Word to the next passage in my daily reading plan, I read these words,” …the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials…” (2 Peter 2:9).

Thank you, Father.

Yes, Abba’s Spirit graciously lights the path.  He comforts you and me with Abba’s Truth. For this reason, despite life’s anxious hair-pin turns, I am able to take that next, first step.

You and I don’t have panoramic vision.   But we know the One who does.

And He has given us just enough light for today.

So, once again,  I will choose to trust my Sovereign Shepherd.  He knows the way.  I’m safe in the back seat of my Heavenly Father’s chariot.

Truly.  It makes all the difference to know that Abba is in the driver’s seat.

For this reason, by His Grace, you and I can trust Him with the down-the-road.   And when we arrive at Abba’s house, we’ll finally see with full, panoramic perspective.

“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid,” ~John 14:26-27