In Need of Some Perspective…

“The Big Picture,” © 2017 Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2017 Lynn Abbott

“It’ll be ‘hair-raising,’ for certain…but you’re an excellent driver.  You’ve driven in third world countries, after all.  I have complete confidence in you, and it’ll be worth it.  I promise,” I said with my most confident smile.

“Besides,” I added, “the distance is shorter than the freeway route.”

My husband looked less convinced.  But since he’s a natural adventurer, I knew he’d eventually agree to give it a try. I knew I could persuade him that all the horror stories he’d heard about driving the Amalfi coastline were greatly exaggerated.

Sure enough, I wore his resistance down…he eventually agreed to my travel schemes.  And so, he, my son and I set off on a beautiful April day. We adjusted our GPS, and embarked on an unforgettable journey.

“You’re doing great!” I encouraged from the back seat of our rental, an up-to-date Citroën.  My voice exuded confidence as we crept along a windy, one-lane road that masqueraded as a two-lane highway.

My compliment was perfectly timed.  My husband had been cautiously following a large tour bus for about 10 miles, and just as we turned the corner, we confronted another enormous tour bus, head-on.

There wasn’t room for two tour buses on that road.

Traffic stopped.  Indeed, there was no where to go.  To the right, our vehicle hugged the coastline’s steep rocky cliff; to the left, I noted a three foot stone wall and then, the sheer drop to the Mediterranean.

My husband groaned.  And I wondered if in my enthusiasm for beautiful vistas, I had pushed a bit too far.

“Well,” I began, hoping to add a little optimism to our most difficult situation, “at least the views are amazing.  And since we’re stopped here anyway, I’ll just snap a few photos.”

“I’m sure the views are great,” my patient other half conceded.  “However, I am unable to enjoy it,” he added.

I stopped talking.  Now was obviously not the best time to suggest that while waiting for the bus to pass,  he might enjoy the view.

You see, my husband’s concern for our safety understandably required that he focus on navigating those precarious, hair-pin curves.  Moment-by-moment decisions occupied his every thought.

No time to take in the views.  And pull-outs were nearly non-existent.  Worse yet… there was no turning back.  The road space certainly didn’t allow for that.

Caught between the buses before us and the minis behind us, we could only crawl forward in hope of reaching our hotel before nightfall.

I wondered if my enthusiasm for beautiful vistas had taken us a bit too far.

My grandmother called such a ride a “knee-scratcher.”   Whatever it was, my husband understandably questioned my wisdom that day.

Absorbed with his behind-the-wheel obligations, he missed the grand perspective.  Even when circumstances offered a moment’s respite, he only had eyes for the road ahead.  So focused was he.

I think  life sometimes imitates that drive.

I scramble to cope with life’s daily challenges and concerns. And although I long to catch my breath–to see God’s big picture–I anxiously anticipate the difficulties that may lie immediately before me.

And so,  I unfortunately find myself simply gripping the steering wheel and praying I make it through the next traffic jam.

Yeah, my faith runs a little low when I find myself negotiating life’s hairpin turns.  As a result, even when Abba orchestrates a breather, I fail to relax my white-knuckled grip.

Indeed, in moments like these, I tend to forget that God’s grace has directed me in the past and that He never fails.

For this reason, the journey seems long, anxious and uncertain. And I feel I am barely hanging on.  I question my itinerary, and wonder if I have taken the wrong route.

“Perhaps,” I think,”I have missed my destination and have gotten lost.”

Maybe, you’ve felt the same way at times.

If so, I’m sure that like me you find comfort in knowing that even first century disciples scrambled at times. Daily anxieties as well as the dangers of living under oppressive Roman rule absorbed their attention.  It’s not surprising, then, that they often missed seeing God’s greater plan.

I think  life sometimes imitates that “knee-scratching” drive.

Actually, as I read the New Testament Gospels, I find the disciples’ frequent confusion almost humorous. Yet, I do know that my hindsight is 20/20.

Had I been in the same spot as those early followers, I suspect I would have responded to Christ as they did. You see, like me, the disciples had trouble seeing beyond the needs of the moment.

They got caught up in the proverbial “squeaky wheel.” And their shortcuts became “long cuts” as they argued independently instead of humbly asking the Savior for direction.

I smile when I recall the disciples disputes among themselves in response to Christ’s frequent spiritual metaphors. When He called them to look beyond life’s minimum requirements, to live for something bigger and better, they often misunderstood him.

They missed the big picture; their understanding of Abba was too small.

For instance, in Mark 8:14-21, just after feeding thousands of people with five loaves and two fish, Jesus gave his disciples a spiritual warning.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod…”

Without a doubt, human nature readily focuses on material survival. Life’s pressures drive us. We desperately look for direction.

At times, we misread the map or over-estimate our abilities; our detours, although well-intentioned, send us far out of our way.

Legalism is like that. It minimizes faith. It replaces a personal relationship with Abba with a set of man-made rules.

Christ says, “Beware the leaven of the Pharisees…”

But the disciples were so focused on their immediate concerns that they just didn’t get it.

In fact, Scripture recounts, “And they began to discuss with one another the fact that they had no bread,” (Mark 8:16).

Jesus probably just shook his head. Grace had carried the disciples again and again. Yet, they still leaned on human reasoning. They trusted their own limited perspective and missed Christ’s meaning.

That’s the way it goes sometimes. Down on the ground, the immediate obstacles I face consume my thoughts. And I can’t see past the oversized bus.

Thus, although Abba has provided for me in the past, I worry and fret over bread.

At times, we misread the map or over-estimate our abilities; our detours, although well-intentioned, send us far out of our way.

Fortunately, there’s always grace. Jesus gently reminded the twelve that He had recently and miraculously provided bread for thousands.

In fact, His teaching did not concern literal bread at all. Their perspective was simply too narrow. They worried about bread while He directed their sights above and beyond the rocky cliffs.

He called them to live for a greater purpose.

He asked them cultivate, through Him, a personal and dependent relationship with Abba rather than to limit their faith to a list of man-made rules.

Yeah, it’s tough to lean on God. We look at maps, and some roads just appear a “no brainer.”

But in actuality when I lean on my human understanding (Proverbs 3:5), the “logical” road takes me far out of my way.  I encounter grave difficulties or I may even get lost.

I’m so grateful for grace. Abba continually reminds me that He is trustworthy. He has directed me in the past; He will carry me in the future.

But He also wants to reveal life more abundant than what can be found in the material world.

And so Christ encouraged his disciples to take a deep breath, to lift their eyes, and to recognize Yahweh’s bigger picture. Christ had provided food for the five thousand but He also longed to feed the human soul.

Yet,  this wasn’t the first time that they missed the grand perspective. Scripture tells us they were worrying about food when they found Christ talking with the woman at the well.

I guess it’s pretty human to get caught up in the daily grind. The Samaritan woman also missed the big picture.

Yet, on that day, grace intervened at a well in Samaria. Christ asked the Samaritan woman for a drink of water.

We learn from the resulting recorded conversation that the woman’s life had been a series of tragedies and wrong turns.

In fact, on the day she met Jesus, the difficulty of her daily life completely obscured her spiritual sight. She only saw life’s obstacles.

Christ encouraged his disciples to take a deep breath, to lift their eyes, and to recognize Yahweh’s bigger picture.

But Christ called her to a life greater than one defined by mere safety or survival: “‘Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.'” (John 4:13-14).

She didn’t understand. She worried about water. I do that. My prayers are often small. I ask mostly for bread and water. I pray for health and God’s provision. All of that is good, it’s true.

And Abba wants me to climb into His lap and tell Him all of my concerns. But I miss the full privilege of prayer when I limit my requests in this way.

I ask Him to fill my car with gas, and then I set out on my journey independently.

God says that for Him, my physical well-being is the small stuff. He’s got that under control. Jesus heals the paralytic, but more importantly, Jesus heals his heart and soul.

He says, “My son, your sins are forgiven…” (Mark 2:5).

Of course, Abba knows all of my concerns whether I acknowledge any to Him or not. Christ demonstrated that He understood the woman’s very human fears and griefs. He specifically listed her heartbreak.

As a result, she finally understood who He was. Her Messiah could give her life the direction she desperately craved.

But old habits die hard. Her focus returned to short-term concerns: Where should she worship? In Jerusalem or Samaria?

Patiently, Christ gave her a glimpse of Abba’s plan: “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth…” (John 4:23a).

Grace reveals God’s grand vistas.

Of course, Abba doesn’t just hand us the correct itinerary and leave us to sort it out. He volunteers to personally lead you and me.

Yes, that’s what time and conversation with Christ is all about. When we commune with our Creator, He empowers us not only to face the road before us but He also grants us a glimpse of the beautiful, although with my finite sight, a somewhat hazy, horizon.

He promises to provide for my daily needs. I can trust Him for that. Yet, He also invites me to live for so much more.

In fact, He raises my sights and reveals a infinitely better plan, (Jeremiah 29:11).

Abba seeks to lovingly direct our paths.

Grace invites me to sit at the feet of the omniscient One who sees beyond my mistakes, my weaknesses, and my current trials to all that He has planned for my future hope and good.

And He certainly knows the geography… We can be sure that He not only sympathizes with our weaknesses, but He also personally leads us safely to His very best, (Hebrews 4:15-16; Psalm 84:11).

Good advice won’t get me far. Man-made maps let me down. Religious rules come up empty. And my own understanding of the road ahead leaves me feeling anxious and lost.

But grace invites me to sit at the feet of the omniscient One who sees beyond my mistakes, my weaknesses, and my current trials to all that He has planned for my future hope and good.

Indeed, nothing substitutes for an ongoing conversation with the One who knows the road. Through His Word, I see more than the obstacles before me.  Like David, “I lift my eyes to the hills” and find my help comes from my Creator (Psalm 121:1-2). And He puts it all in perspective.

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass,” I Thessalonians 5:24

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