This week I am at the ocean on vacation. I was taking a couple of pictures of a glorious sunset because like so many people I am trying to capture the sheer beauty of the world that God created. You don’t have to be a former photographer to be frustrated by the smallness with which the camera lens captures what you are seeing with your eyes. Even with the digital technology of 360-degree photography, a camera cannot capture the vastness and detail of the human eye. It hasn’t mattered if I was in a desert, on a mountain, or in my backyard, a camera cannot adequately substitute the richness of the experience of being in a place in a moment. Haven’t you ever noticed that when these pictures are posted on social media, they always come with an explanation about the full expanse the person was seeing? This thought led me to think about how narrow my lens is compared to God. When I look at the expanse of the horizon in front of me and how it goes even beyond my peripheral vision, I am overwhelmed by how much more there is. Unlike those in the ancient world who wondered if sailing into the horizon meant falling off the earth into an abyss, I trust that there is more beyond what I can see. Shouldn’t my trust in God and his plan be as solid as my trust that there is more to the universe than the eye or even sophisticated equipment can see?
Why do I have such trouble believing in his plan and timing over my own? Everyone knows Prov 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding and Jer 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. We know these verses, they are on all kinds of tchotchke, and yet I still wrestle with trust. The overarching theme of the Bible is God’s provision for his people. This book is filled with stories of individuals and whole groups that were blessed by God. So many of those who were blessed also showed their weaknesses and sin, but God chose to prosper them anyway. I read all those stories and yet I still find myself doubting. I don’t doubt my friends when they are telling me how much I am not seeing in their picture of a place like the Grand Canyon. I am sure they believe me when I am telling them about the richness of the detail and color they aren’t seeing in my picture. If we can believe each other’s grander view why is it so hard to believe that the one with the widest view of all.
Exodus tells us stories of the Israelites forgetting what God is doing for them. When I am reading about the pillars of smoke and fire, the manna, the water, the shining face of Moses, I think to myself how could they forget God is with them and providing for them the whole time. I wonder how it is that they can doubt God’s excellent plan for them or the land he promised. Then I remember that I also doubt and grumble about God’s plans and timing. The times that I think I am following what God is calling me to do and a roadblock appears, do I instantly pray thank you Father for not letting me stumble into the wrong place at the wrong time. No, I don’t. I forget that his plans are good and I grumble about how other people, God’s followers, my brothers and sisters, are in my way. Instead of being thankful, I commit the sins of anger and impatience. My pride in my calling becomes my golden calf. Since I recently reread this book, I want us to be reminded of when the calf was made. The Israelites had just promised to follow all that God as said and prepared for his coming where the mountain shook, trumpets sounded, and the voice of God was heard (Ex 19). They were given the commandments (Ex. 20) as well as many other instructions for living. It wasn’t until Moses went back up Sinai for forty days that they forgot all the things God told them and demanded a “god” to worship. Before you think that it’s just regular people who are forgetful, Aaron is the one who formed the calf and said “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” (Ex 32:4b). If Aaron, who went up Mt. Sinai with Moses, can forget God’s promises I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when I do. I should probably take comfort in the fact that the people in the Bible are just like us today. Instead, I am disappointed that I haven’t learned from these stories or even my own experiences. Despite knowing that I am like that camera and cannot see the full picture, I continue to think that my view is the correct one.
The truth of all this is that we can learn. We can be transformed by our relationship with Jesus. We can learn scripture and store it in our hearts (Ps 119). It’s why reading the Bible is so important. Reading devotionals and the works of scholars is a good way to get us thinking about scripture in different ways, but it is no substitute for the transformative power of the word itself when you allow it in your heart. When I open myself up to listening to the Holy Spirit that dwells in me, I can feel myself get calmer, more patient, more loving of others and myself, and in full trust of God’s plan. If that isn’t God meeting the promise of Joshua 1:8 that meditating on the word will proper me, then I don’t know what is. It is my prayer that I remember God’s wide view makes mine look like that narrow picture on my phone and that I remember to trust him in his timing.