Tuesday, December 1, 2009

"Zoom" Adjustments

It’s not easy to live with suspense. I find I talk to a lot of people who are living with a profound sense of suspense: will I lose my house? Will I lose my job? Will I ever find another one? As a church planter it seems like my own life has been up in the air for a long time.

As Christians, of course, we know we’re supposed to pray about these kinds of struggles, and the Bible seems to indicate that prayer should help us discover a certain kind of peace about things. But saying our prayers doesn’t necessarily seem to change how things look, at least right away. And that can be unnerving.

I’m writing these words on my laptop computer, sitting on my patio. One of the things I like about writing on a computer is the “zoom” feature. Sitting here with my laptop on the top of my…uh, lap I find that the text can seem a little bit too small to read easily. I might just crane my neck and try to squint to track whatever it is I’ve just written. But that looks funny and can get really uncomfortable after a while. What works much better is to go to the “View” menu, click “Zoom” and then simply make all the text appear bigger. With a few gestures on the touchpad (or better yet, keyboard shortcuts!) I suddenly find that everything is so much easier to keep in perspective.

Back to the suspense thing. I wonder if there is a “Zoom” feature in our lives that we need to learn to use. Maybe even develop a few keyboard shortcuts for.

Here’s how it seems to work for me. I find that most of my suspense comes from things that await me in my future. Problems that may come up next week, next month or even next year. Sometimes I can even fret on the basis of a career trajectory or retirement plan. Actually I’m a pretty nimble worrier: I can switch almost instantly from worrying about catching a traffic light green to worrying about what I’ll do when I retire several decades from now. Maybe it’s a mid-life thing.

So here’s what I’ve noticed: the Bible speaks very bluntly about our worry, but much of what it says seems to focus on my daily needs. In His pattern prayer Jesus tells us we should pray “give us this day our annual daily bread”. He also cautions us (in Matthew) to let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day, since each day has enough trouble of its own. And after all that’s how the whole manna meal plan worked in the desert; one day at a time.

Then it occurs to me, maybe my problem is that I need to set my mental “zoom” to the daily setting, not a weekly or monthly or annual view. And that really seems to help. If I adjust the zoom so all I can see is today, God’s faithfulness seems obvious. “By His great love I am not consumed; His mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness” (to borrow words from Lamentations 3). One day’s needs matched up with one day’s grace. Not bad.

But if I zoom back to include more of the future, then suddenly a lot more questions pop up in front of me. Now I'm now faced with 365 days worth of needs pitted against only one days’ grace. I’ve got 365 times more problems than I have grace to deal with them. That looks a lot more dismal. And if I start to think a few decades ahead things can get pretty overwhelming pretty quickly.

So…one of my spiritual disciplines is to learn to re-set my zoom setting to daily more often. And sure enough, I keep finding that His mercies are new every morning, and that each day I’m given my daily bread.

I can live with that.

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