Seeing The Bigger Picture
With my bible study group, I have been looking at the book of Esther. The only book in the bible that doesn’t mention God, yet it seems that God is present nonetheless. Much like in our lives, we cannot see or touch God in a physical sense, yet God is very much present and with us as we live our lives. God is present as we choose to live with God in glorifying ways. As we respond to God, God grasps us. As God grasps us, we begin to know and experience God. As we begin to know and experience God, our life is changed nothing is the same again.
It has been argued that Xerxes’ initial decision seems somewhat nearsighted, but I think he just didn’t understand what the decision was he was making. He could and maybe should be faulted for not trying to understand the issues at hand and looking at things critically. We could learn the importance of reason and thinking critically from his story. He discards his wife, the queen because she didn’t obey him, which causes him to find a new wife. Esther fits that role. He then agreed with Haman to destroy the Jews without any consideration. In chapter 7, he sends Haman to the gallows. All of these choices seem rather rashly made. Xerxes doesn’t seem to be one who chooses wisely.
What kept Xerxes from seeing the bigger picture was being sheltered in his palace not seeing the wider world. Often, we too are sheltered and don’t see the whole picture. We want what we want and make choices we think will get us those things. We don’t see the whole picture. We think our patch of the universe is the whole, when faced with a situation that forces us to see a wider world we are like a deer in headlights, frozen in place without the ability to move. Going to college, the death of loved one, our first broken heart or some other trauma forces us to see more of the world to see that our patch is not the center of the universe that there is more to life than we ever thought. Often, we are left rootless, ungrounded and we exist in a dreamlike state until we somehow find a way to go on.
What keeps me from seeing the bigger picture is wanting life to be a certain way. I want a girlfriend. I want to go to seminary. I want a good job, my own place, a life of my own. These things while they are good in themselves and things that are part of life lead me to see life in a certain way and when I do not get them on my timetable I get upset, discouraged, and down on life and myself. I struggle to see that maybe God is telling a different story that God is trying to use my life to be a blessing to others. My failure to see the big picture that my life story may be different from the one I want to tell. I may get all those things I want, but just not how or when I want. Maybe, God will bless me with those things to bless others after I have learned what needs learning or matured to a point where I can stand in the light.
In Matthew 16, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”
Jesus says to deny oneself. The call to discipleship demands that one completely abandon the natural desire to seek comfort, fame, or power. We are to live radical surrendered lives to God. Now, I know some will think I am saying that we are to submit to our religious leaders and do what they say. That is the furthest thing from what I am saying. I come from a religion that says your elders know best question nothing. I completely deny and rebel to that kind of toxic spirituality.
I am saying that there are things Jesus would have us do—love wastefully, forgive always, and serve radically. This doesn’t mean you have to go into strange and dangerous places or that you have to fly off to another country to love, forgive, and serve. You simply love, forgive, and serve the person in front of you. You love and serve everyone you encounter and you forgive all. Following Jesus means we don’t run from suffering, but embrace it. Selflessness and generosity is the way, the way of Jesus, to find your true self. What does it matter if we get everything we want, but lose your soul?
The Christian life is not becoming less, but becoming more of who you really are. The Christian life calls for sacrifice, it bids that we come and die. When we die to our self-centered old ways of living, we are born into new, eternal life. Jesus is not about making us like everyone else, but is about giving us life. Jesus meets us where we are and loves us in spite of ourselves. Jesus loves us into our true, real self.