The Big Picture (or, does the Universe hate me?)

Years ago, I wrote a devotional for the Christian magazine, Our Daily Bread. It was titled “Our Limited Understanding.” (don’t look for it; sadly, it wasn’t picked up for publication). In reality, it was about The Big Picture. I wrote:

“As a mom, God often speaks to me through my two small children. The kids and I enjoy reading stories before bed each night. One night, while reading to my son, age 3, I pointed to a picture in his book. “That’s a daisy,” I said. “No mommy,” replied my son, “that’s not a daisy, that’s a flower!” I knew that we were looking at a picture of a daisy, but in his limited view of the world, he knew it only as a flower. Later, as I reflected on that conversation, I realized how much we are like little children in our relationship to God. We think we have all the answers, but we don’t know the intricate details of God’s plan.”

In other words, we don’t see The Big Picture! (first cousin of the phrase, “we don’t know what we don’t know”).

Very often, pieces of The Big Picture will reveal themselves long after a crisis has passed – we can see how, what initially seemed like the worst thing ever, turned out to be in our best interest. Consider for a moment, the stories of those who were late to work the day of the World Trade Center attack. Or, the story of Elizabeth Smart, who shared her experience in a TED talk I heard recently. Incredibly, as horrific as her kidnapping experience was, she boldly proclaimed that she wouldn’t go back and change what happened, because it has given her a platform to speak out on behalf of other young victims of sex abuse who can’t speak for themselves. WHAT A POWERFUL STATEMENT! Elizabeth understood that, as traumatic as her ordeal was, there was a GREATER good that came from it. She explained that, yes, she could have remained in “victim” mode – God knows she had earned the role – but that would have given her attackers even more power. Then, not only would her own life have been ruined, she would have been of no help to the many people whose lives she has touched since then.

I recently read a beautiful analogy of this Big Picture concept, written by my friend Jeannine Clemens, Founder/Director of Bridge to Avalon in Charleston, SC. She wrote (and I share with her permission):

“I remember many years ago going to the National Art Gallery in Washington, DC and standing before one of the very large paintings. When I got right up to it, I could see brushstrokes and colors and texture, but I had no idea what the subject was from that perspective.”

To me, this is EXACTLY how life works! Our lives are full of color and texture, but we can’t always see the complex and beautiful patterns that occur when our lives are interwoven with others – when they are pieced together by the omnipotent weaver Himself! We get so caught up in our own little worlds and our own mini-crises that we forget to step back and suspend judgement.

You see, most of the time, we pre-judge the events of our lives, labeling them “really shitty” or “super fantastic!” But, if we can suspend judgment long enough, we might be able to glimpse the Big Picture earlier and realize that what we initially thought was going to suck ass, was actually working in our favor!

As you go through your week, you will encounter situations that make it seem like the Universe is conspiring against you. Take a moment to breathe, and try not to jump to conclusions. Entertain the idea that there might be a greater purpose to your momentary struggle. You will probably be surprised to find that not only is the Universe NOT working against you, it is your biggest champion!