Today my daughter writes exams for the very first time. She has been studying hard, she has good grades, and is a calm individual. She should be fine. Lucy showed me her latest essay, what I particularly liked was the balance between the big picture and the small details, how when we address a challenge we need to be aware of the larger issues and how we can practically make a difference in the shorter term. My big picture friends, a very small minority of the population, are excellent at seeing the “macro”, the forces at work we don’t often see. The best way to explain this is the age-old fable of the people being pushed off the cliff. One by one persons are falling to the ground, injured and hurt. Near the place where they land are compassionate and caring individuals who rush to aid the bleeding victims. One day someone down below looks up and asks, “What is causing all of the people to fall?” Soon someone is tasked with confronting the person who is doing the pushing. And suddenly there are no more victims.
“Macro” people see the “pushing”, the larger causes to the pain of the world. We need them. And in church land, where I work, they are often in short supply. Church folks are naturally compassionate and doers of the word. Sermons that focus too much on the big picture are frustrating to “micro” folks, “so what can I do?” they want to know. When Lucy looks at a challenge she can step back and see the larger issues.
The Bible has a lot of big picture analysis. Proverbs famously says, “Unless the people have a vision they will perish.” Meaning unless people can integrate what they doing with what they believe they will lose faith, grow weary and wonder what it is all about. The Bible is filled with Mission Statements, Micah “love mercy, do justice and walk humbly with our God” and “love your neighbour as you love yourself” and “where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.”
But everyone knows someone who loves humanity but it is people they can’t stand. It is all well and good to have a grand crusade but if you aren’t actually helping anyone what has the analysis really accomplished? Church folks know this at their core, that’s why we have benevolent funds, prayer shawls, prayer chains, pastoral care teams, church suppers, activities and tasks for people to do, where action is the main attraction. In church world there can be no stronger affirmation than, “see her over there, she is a worker!” And the Bible is filled with this talk as well, James demands of believers “be doers of the word.” Indeed in Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells his followers that judgement is limited to one question, “Where were you when I was…” The response to a need is elevated above almost any command.
Striking the balance, between the big picture and the small act of kindness, is the key.