(On Friday's I help to facilitate a discussion group for Gateway College. We've been talking about the future. This past Friday we talked about The Big Picture.)
I've been bringing this idea up a lot lately. I feel like it is a gift God wants me to continually work on. To develop. There have been instances recently where God has reminded me of the big picture. Like this TED Talk with Amy Purdy asking the question "If your life were a book...", or this blog post by Jon Acuff about being humble. Then there's the big picture I discovered about my singleness. I'm growing of the mindset that the big picture can be applied to any aspect of life, as long as you're open and aware of it.
So what about the future?
Looking at the examples of Amy and Jon, I began to try and develop a theme, and knowing that the future is different for everyone, I attempted to be as general as possible. I challeneged the group with this statement, "What if the big picture of the future is not asking the question 'What am I going to do' but rather 'Who will I surround myself with'?"
Let's go back to the book idea. Most people in the christian community will agree that the main character in all our stories is God. We are the bit players. Our importance goes only so far as to further His story. Some even attempt to find God in every story, comparing every main character to that of Jesus, etc. Well I contend against these theories. I believe that these are human characters with very human qualities, and have no place to be compared to God of Jesus.
God is not conflicted. Jesus has no flaws.
I insist that we are the main characters of our stories. That God, if anything, is the author, and that we are a franchise of books brought together to tell a bigger story. That even with our flaws and our mistakes, we can still represent truth and His message.
So let me use an example of the greatest story ever told, stubstituting us for the main character, and applying it to our theory of "The Big Picture."
Star Wars follows a simple moisture farm-boy who finds out he is gifted with spectacular abilities, who goes on a journey beyond anything he, or we, could ever have imagined. But anyone who has seen Star Wars knows that even though Luke Skywalker is the main character, the story is actually about something bigger: The Rebellion overcoming the evil Empire. Luke has to make a decision far different from any plans he has ever dreamed up in his lifetime. The academy, he decides, is no longer an option as he surrounds himself with this group of ragtag rebels in an effort to change the course of the future once-and-for-all. Even Han Solo, everyone's favorite scruffy-lookin-nerfherder, decides to put his personal ambitions aside in exchange for something else.
I was watching the Newsies the other day, the only musical I know of with more ensembles than solos. In it Mr. Pulitzer tells Jack Kelly that "Anyone who doesn't act towards his own self interests is a fool!" Jack almost buys into this, wanting to follow his dream more than anything, even if it means going against a cause he's been fighting for the entire movie. Of course he comes back, and the Newsie's strike is a success, but even when this victory allows him to get to where he's always wanted, he turns it down again.
Jack realizes it is not about his plans, but about who he surrounds himself with, and this is his new future.
I suppose you could say that these two stories are about a cause & about taking a stand, and that the real purpose is about choosing something to fight for. Yet I would still disagree with you. These stories are about forsaking one's own plans for a future, surrounding oneself with people one loves, struggling through life together, and coming through farther than one could ever imagined. Luke eventually got to fly...and more. Jack eventually found a home...and more.
This is the big picture.
This is the gospel.
Jesus challenges us to give up our own lives to find life. Ask how this is possible and most will give you some ill conceived notions about heaven and the promise of eternal happiness and yada-yada-yada, but this is not what Jesus is saying. He is saying that if we learn to love one another, to serve each other, and to do life together as he commands, that we will find that our lives are so much more fulfilling than we could ever have planned on our own. God promises us that He will give us the deepest desires of our heart, He has a plan for us, a future, but He doesn't ask us to follow it. He tells us not to worry about it, to trust him, to let him worry about the future, and we should just worry about loving one another - or surviving one another - if that's the way you view it.
Give God a chance. This is the first step to the bigger picture.
Because when you start worrying more about the people around you, happiness finds you, and God can then worry about how He's going to give you everything you've always dreamed about. When I let go of my own plans for the future, and started focusing on the lives of others, on loving them and helping them and doing life together, I found that everything else started to click into place beyond anything I could have expected.
Jon says "The people you meet are more interesting than you." Amy says, "How would you want your story to go?" Solomon says, "A Three Stranded Rope is not easily snapped." Jesus says, "Follow me, and Eternal Life starts here."
I say that the big picture of the future is not about how you plan it or what you're going to do, but who you surround yourself with.
(Want to join in on the conversation? Join us at one of our small groups. Next discussion group: "Maximizing the Present.")
Update Dec. 4, 2011; 8:08pm - This TED Talk about regret I just watched is also interesting as statistics shown during the presentation that the thing people LEAST regret is "Community"; and close to that is "Friends." So if we look to our past and take into account the things we do regret, and we envision the future knowing we want to have the least regret, then possibly the decisions we make now should closely resemble who we surround ourselves with in community and friends rather than what we'll do with education or career. Just another thought.