My reflection on Chapter 6 (“Plotting Goodness”) from the book We Make the Road by Walking by Brian McLaren.
While eating breakfast and drinking my morning coffee, my routine is to check headlines on my tablet. First I scan the online version of our local newspaper—local news and sports, national headlines, today’s obituaries. Next I select a couple different news agencies and read a couple stories from each. Then a few essays from Real Clear Politics. I always do it in that same order, being the creature of habit that I am. However, I can sometimes get bogged down in stories that break my heart or leave me anxious: The latest shooting by a police officer. The most recent terrorist attack. The epidemic of heroin. The details of computer hacking. The growing cases of Zika. The photos of young children in Aleppo.
A morning that began with hope and promise is now tinged with anguish and helplessness.
Some mornings I have to tell myself, will myself NOT to click on a particular story, for fear of the emotional aftermath I’ll experience. This is not Nancy being an ostrich with her head in the sand, denying the world’s woes. But it is setting some boundaries that keep me from drifting into despair.
I was glad to read McLaren’s words in Chapter 6 today. To be honest, most of the chapter didn’t hold my interest. But it was one particular phrase, early on, that caught my attention and sums up where I need to place the news of the day.
McLaren is busy working through the following idea in chapter 6—that while you and I plot among ourselves and in ourselves to acquire things FOR ourselves, God is plotting goodness. But the phrase that I hold onto is this simple one: “While we plot ways to use God to get blessings for ourselves, God stays focused on the big picture of blessing the world…”
God stays focused on the big picture of blessing the world. I may not always be aware of it, or be able to see it, but that is truth of our faith. From Abram and Sarai, who were called to journey into the unknown (a “big picture” that God could see), to Mary, informed by Gabriel that she would bear a son by the power of the Holy Spirit and that this child would save her people (a “big picture” that God could see), the Bible is full of stories of this particular truth. And I am like those poor, anxious, fretful, disciple-student-apprentices of Jesus—wondering what I will eat or drink or wear…wondering what Jesus could possibly mean by his strange stories…wondering what Jesus is up to when he offers love to the unlovable and commands I do the same. I say to myself, it’s the big picture, dummy!
Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t pay attention to the news of tragedy and war and man’s inhumanity to man. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, in my own little corner of the world, to shed our Lord’s light in dark places. It DOES mean that while I am asking God for strength that I might do these small acts of grace, I can rest assured God is taking charge of the big picture. And knowing that, I am less overwhelmed, and more hope-filled each day.
Our next chapter is 7 (“It’s Not Too Late”). See you on the journey!