Thursday, December 4, 2014

Struggling to See the Big Picture

"Wish," a creation of Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada, in Belfast, Ireland.

If you wanted to create a huge portrait, what materials would you use? How about dirt and sand, wood, stones and grass?

That might sound strange, unless you’ve heard of the artist Jorge Rodriguez-Gerada. Recently I read about his “Wish,” the largest land portrait ever created in the British Isles, on an empty 11-acre lot in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He made this image of an anonymous girl, viewable only by air or from the highest points in the city, using 30,000 wooden pegs, 2,000 tons each of soil and sand, and a variety of other materials including grass, string and rocks.

Rodriguez-Gerada has established an impressive career making massively scaled portraits in public spaces around the world, often in natural settings. As with other artists that have created similar imaginative works, he begins with a plan and an image known only to him. With the help of laborers, paid and voluntary, the required materials are hauled to the site and placed according to his instructions. Only Rodriguez-Gerada knows how the finished product will appear.

Can you imagine what it’s like being the workers, following the artist’s specifications on placement of various materials and how much of each to use, without having a clue what they’re working on? It would be like assembling a million-piece puzzle, without being able to refer to the photo on the outside of the box.

In a very real sense, the life of faith is much like this. We go from one day to the next, following life’s inevitable twists and turns, our feelings ranging from exhilarated and optimistic to confused and perplexed over how and why things happen as they do. Some days the path ahead seems clear; others are like traveling through the proverbial dark tunnel, desperately hoping to catch a glimpse of light at its end.

During such times of uncertainty, trusting in God, His perfect plan and sovereignty can carry us through. This is when passages like Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me,” offer such comfort.

The Lord also offers this promise: See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19). We are stuck in the present, seeing only the here and now, but God has a different perspective from high above – as if hovering in a helicopter, able to perceive past, present and future at once. Kind of like viewing Rodriguez-Gerada’s “Wish” from a lofty location.

But there’s another element to this metaphor. Imagine how the laborers feel when at last their work is done and they have an opportunity to step back and appreciate their work, finally understanding what the master artist had in mind.

We too have the opportunity – and privilege – of participating in what the Master Artist is doing, not only in our personal lives but also in the lives of people around us, perhaps even people living thousands of miles away. Because even though we don’t know His grand scheme, God invites us to partner with Him: “For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).

This thought thrills me because I know the Lord doesn’t need me. He created the entire universe without my help, without once consulting with me. So when He asks me to be His “fellow worker,” it’s like He’s saying, “Hey, you want to join in the fun? Come on, then, let’s do it.”

No, God doesn’t provide inside information on what He’s up to, and has no obligation to do so. He simply asks, “Are you willing to trust Me?” If we do, one day we’ll understand and realize the truth that He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

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