Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Celebrating A New Way to See

By Linda Grupp Boutin

I opened my eyes one morning wondering,"March 1, 2015? How can this be?"

Looking at my posts I realize I last published in mid-November...how can this be?

I had made up my mind this holiday season--we would enjoy every holiday from Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. So many days I had lost to hospital stays, feeling sick, going to doctor's appointments. Yep, this year we would have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year in 2015.

The fatal flaw in this plan? Thinking I could do it all in just my own strength. A certain arrogance about believing I could make this happen without even praying for a bit of help from the Lord. For a lifetime I have endured smack down after smack down trying to learn this hard-won lesson.

I opened my eyes this morning wondering, "March 31, 2015? Are you kidding me?" A full month has passed and I am still working on the same post? And for that matter, what has happened to the first three months of 2015. How did my plan go so far astray...again...

Rereading my post from November 2014 after breakfast, I began to understand a bit of what has happened in the first three months of this year. It is titled "Celebrating a Miracle Every Day." And although this new year has been tough, the miracles I have witnessed just keep multiplying and multiplying. As in November, there are the daily kind, like the sparrow so proud in the plum tree holding a puff of pink fluff, just the type to form a perfect base for his nest. The moon, nearing full, lighting the night before me. My dog still dancing at the end of his leash on every walk, enjoying life while enduring an illness...

Painted by Pamela Howett

There are the big miracles too of 2015, like my mother-in-law surviving a hemorrhage, difficult illness and going on and off of hospice within 6 weeks, recovery unexpected but prayed for manifest before our very eyes! Challenges persist, like waiting for my husband's knee replacement surgery, a date we are still waiting for and praying that the surgeon's hands be guided by the Great Healer.

All through these difficult weeks, our pastor kept leading us weekly through the book of Jonah, insisting that it was much more than a story about a big fish! Really? A prophet running away from the Lord who provides and denying His prompting to go to Nineveh. A man in rebellion from God insisting on pursuing his own course. A human being making mistake after mistake until finally reluctantly relenting and preaching for one whole day in Nineveh. Watching the populace of the city from above and sticking to his very own very limited perspective of the scene unfolding below the shady vine provided by God to shade his brow. Wondering why God should grant the Ninivites grace so undeserved...ignoring God's Big Picture of Grace while sticking to his own limited view...

More than the story of a man enduring a storm, being thrown overboard, a big fish swallowing the man, keeping him in its stomach for 3 days, vomiting him up just a day's walk away from where God had prompted him to go? How exactly does someone look after 3 days in the digestive acid of the stomach of a big fish anyway? Not too good, I think...

Now wait just one second, if it's not the story of a big fish and a limited perspective of a man, than what is the story about? And then Pastor Brian unfolds all these weeks of study to reveal the Bigger Perspective. One that Jonah could never fathom and I usually miss as well. I glimpsed it once though...

On a cold winter day my brother had convinced us to join him and his family on the ski slopes for an introduction to one of his favorite pastimes.The bunny slope presented this klutzy girl with problems enough, namely getting back up on those darned skis whenever I fell down. Greg laughed as he helped me regain my skis while my coordinated husband took right to these over-sized boots and long sticks we stood on. After a morning's struggle, Greg announced it was time for us to tackle the more adult slope. Really? 

We hopped on board side by side and the tiny seat sped along the lift at a most alarming  rate. The ground dropped away so swiftly I clung to my husband just wanting to shut my eyes and pretend I was back home safely tucked in our warm home. Funny, I think Jonah may have felt just this way curled in the bottom of the ship trying to ignore the storm smashing around him. Gary kept telling me to look while I hid my face in his arm; boots, skis, and legs dangling in the wind rushing past.

He kept nudging me and I relented and peeked out. And then I saw the Bigger Picture, the mountains looming large around us, the tiny pines below, it took my breath away to see such a beautiful landscape spread out before my view. And for once, I understood why skiing appealed to so many. It wasn't just the boots and skis, the speed as the skier worked their way down the slope, quickly and nimbly like Greg, or slowly and timidly like me. To begin to grasp a larger, more heavenly perspective, we humans must step outside our normal boundaries and take the larger view.

I must admit that I spent most of January in a panicked state, praying for my mother-in-law and dog to overcome their illnesses. Too much  of February I spent coughing and battling my own maladies. And March, I spent trying to breathe again and looking for a larger view about my personal challenges of 2015. Reflecting back on March I realize I have again had to expand my perspective and turn closer than ever to  the Lord who sustains me. Pastor Brian could not have had any better timing in explaining that the story of Jonah is about more than a big fish, it is about learning a new way of seeing, it is about trying to look more with God's perspective versus staying stuck in my own small world view.