A man arrived at his girl friend's apartment but she wasn't ready, so he made himself useful by putting away the clean dishes from the dishwasher. No asking, prodding, or hinting by her - he just thought he would help out. She was impressed! This guy is marriage material!
As he was unloading it she went to the cupboard for something and found he had stacked the measuring cups in the wrong order - instead of nesting them as they were designed, he had stacked one on the other in the order he got them out of the dishwasher.
She opened her mouth to say, 'That's not the way these should be stacked, next time...' when something stopped her. She thought, 'Is this really important?'
Trivial, or deal breaker?
She remembered her friends complaining about things their husbands did NOT do - laundry, dishes, cleaning the house, helping with the kids - And she thought, "Am I going to correct him over measuring cups not stacked correctly when he took it upon himself to empty the dishwasher? We may be together the rest of our lives. Is this really important?"
In a flash of time she saw years into their future - years of her correcting little things he did wrong. She suddenly realized she had assumed her way was the only way and she thought it her job to train him - nested measuring cups here, properly folded towels there, dishwasher loaded the 'right' way...
In a revelation of role reversing clarity she imagined herself going to the grocery store, and him saying to her as she left: "Do you have the list? Make sure you use the coupons! Remember I like the whole milk not the fat-free stuff. And get the right washing detergent this time! Ours is the bright orange one. Be sure to get our favorite ice cream. And remember you have to pick up the dry cleaning too!"
She realized by keeping quiet she was risking laundry disasters, clothes left another day at the cleaners, wrong items bought at the store, food in the 'wrong place' in the refrigerator, and wallets and keys on the table that is supposed to be spotlessly clean. But she realized it was worth the risk keeping quiet.
And in that moment of clarity instead of correcting him, she closed her mouth and gave him a big kiss: "Thank you for unloading the dishwasher honey!"
They've now been married nearly 20 years, and he still does things 'the wrong way', but it all works out because they each look at the big picture instead of pointing out each other's mistakes.
Let's play what if. What if she had opened her mouth to correct him with the measuring cups? Then she would have moved effortlessly to how he did the laundry, how he cleaned the house, how he folded the clothes, how he kept the car - nothing would be off limits to her corrections!
And he would have felt trapped with no where to turn, for anything he did would be wrong. Perhaps he would eventually shut her out so that anything she said was answered in automatic mode; 'Yes dear' while never actually listening to what she was saying.
Or maybe resentment would build up in him to the point he kept a low anger simmering, feeling she never saw the good he did - how hard he worked, that he took it upon himself to unload the dishwasher, go to the store, clean the floor, empty the trash - all he got was correction on how he did all those things not quite right and nothing was ever good enough for her. But she would never understand, after all, she was just trying to help.
Not the correct perspective
Some Christians are what her boyfriend could have become in my 'what if' scenario because they think God is constantly looking over their shoulder trying to tell them how they could do things better. Or they feel trapped, that He is always ready to correct even their best efforts. Some are angry at Him as if He is just trying to help, they feel they can't do anything right.
Big picture...Ephesians 2:6-7
But what if God is more like the way this woman reacted? What if He chooses to overlook the incorrectly stacked measuring cups of our spiritual life in favor of the big picture, and just give us a big spiritual kiss (blessing)?
What if He chooses for the sake of the long-term relationship, to remain quiet, even silently cleansing us of sins we did but weren't aware of, all because of His great love and the fact we will be together for eternity.
Ephesians 2:6 says "...And God (the Father) did raise us up together and did seat us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus..." This verse is about our salvation, our instant access to the Father, our adoption to the Father through Christ.
But verse 7 tell us WHY He saved us: "...that He might show in the ages that are coming the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus."
The Father saved us so that in the AGES to come He can continue to show us how much He loves us!
His purpose for the cross wasn't just about this life, it was about the ages to come - eternity with us. He is looking at the big picture.
Verses 6 & 7 together: "God the Father, did raise us up together, and did seat us together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that He might show in the ages that are coming the exceeding riches of His grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus."
The Father is not an over-bearing or maybe even abusive Father continually pointing out each 'measuring cup we don't stack properly' in our lives. The Bible says He is actually already thinking about how He can show His exceeding grace and kindness towards us in the ages to come. Wow!
If you have 100 years of born-again life on earth how does that compare to 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 infinity zeros following, in a glorified, sinless body in heaven through the ages to come? That 100 years is tiny in comparison. So should we be focused on the trials of the here and now, or look towards that 10 to the infinity power years ahead?
Now if you are God and you invested the life of your only Son to die for all mankind, the greatest of all prices paid, and you know that investment has yielded these spiritual children who will forever and ever be with you, wouldn't you look at life in this body as temporary?
So this series is about how the Father and Lord Jesus are looking at the big picture of us spending eternity with them, and how we need to change our thinking to their thinking. This is about 'big picture' thinking presented in scripture and evidenced by small 'winks' God gives us through our day that tell us to look higher, deeper, and further into the ages to come.
"Though outwardly we are wasting away, inwardly we are being renewed day by day...so we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen, because that which is seen is temporary, and that which is unseen is eternal." (II Corinthians 4: 16,18)
More about the big picture next week...until then, blessings,