The Simplicity Of The Big Picture

Every once in a while, I catch a fleeting glimpse of the big picture. You know, when suddenly you see the world as the vast and unexplainable mystery it is and yourself as a feeble and limited mind that can’t possibly pretend to control what happens in it.

This reminds me of the movie Signs. In the film, Mel Gibson is a former pastor who lost his faith after his wife died brutally in a car accident. And even as death and destruction loom in the distance, he clings to his anger and bitterness with God, refusing to give up and ask for help. It seems almost taboo in today’s Christian culture to honestly express feelings of hurt and questioning anger toward God, but he dares to voice the politically incorrect feelings that we all experience in the dark times of our life. When the answer to the question “Why?” doesn’t come, he retreats into his shelter of stubborn anger even more.

In addition to the death of his wife and his son’s life-threatening asthma, there are the random little annoyances and peculiarities in his daily life that just don’t make sense. Like his daughter’s phobia of water and his talented brother’s embarrassing baseball career in the minor leagues. Having seen this movie at a time when I was hurting from the death of a loved one, I was desperately asking God the age-old and seemingly answerless question of “Why?” And I grew angrier and angrier at God as the story unfolded and at the injustices that this man and every other person have to face at some point. It seemed there was no reconciliation in sight between these events and God’s love.

But just when I thought that my fragile faith was only going to falter as I watched this poor man struggle and drown in the tragedies of life, things took an unexpected and dramatic turn. When things seemed most grim and hopeless, I found that glimpse of the big picture. And as usual, my feeble mind (which on most days I consider quite wise) couldn’t have planned a better way of reconciliation. Each one of those obstacles had this crazy way of actually working together to create something good.

It’s one thing to read about God working for our good in the Bible, but I sadly admit that I’m quite shocked when I actually see it happen in real life. To be quite honest, I think I know best. My head will accept the claim that God is able to accomplish amazing things, but it’s just so hard for my heart to take that leap. And even after God has proven Himself faithful in “leap of faith” situations, I’m just as reluctant to hand over the reins the next time. But I guess that’s the whole point. Sometimes, God’s ways aren’t going to make sense, and I will have to follow the impossible and inconceivable and admit that I am not in control. After all, we know that life is unpredictable, but as long as we fool ourselves into thinking we can control what happens, that power gives us a little sense of security.

No matter how many times I’ve seen the movie, I always feel like I’ve been hit by a ton of bricks when the end credits start rolling. It’s as if the shutter of the camera through which I’m looking opens for an instant, long enough for me to make out some distant image, then closes quickly and resolutely, before I can clearly see the image for what it is. I beg for more, but I’m told that the quick flash was long enough, just enough to catch an idea of what the big picture could be. And this truth is so simple, but so hard for a mind that yearns and digs for answers to accept. And yet it stares me in the face, unwavering in the complexity and simplicity of it all: maybe when life hurts and feels like a black hole of confusion, God may actually know what He’s doing after all.

One of the last scenes of the movie sums it all up for me. It’s a simple shot of a window that has been haphazardly boarded up with old two-by-fours and a few rusty nails—a good metaphor for all of the work the characters did to secure their house from danger. But while they looked sturdy and strong, in the end those boards had nothing to do with the characters’ survival. Their saving grace came from the realm beyond their control. And suddenly those thick, wooden boards seem useless and flimsy.

In the end, all of our efforts at self-preservation, safety and happiness are just that: efforts. And many times we don’t realize that until it’s too late, and we’re peering through the dim and foggy window only to see that maybe God actually has been taking care of us and holding our futures in His hands. Maybe it really is the behind-the-scenes efforts of God that make the difference and not our own flimsy boarded-up windows. I know one thing. I will sleep better tonight having been reminded that God really is in control, and that there’s nothing I can do about it. And for one quick and fleeting moment, that gives me peace.

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[Sarah Hardy is a college student in Kansas, where she is beginning to make all of those super fun and extremely exciting, life-changing college decisions. Wish her luck!]

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