The Big Picture

August 26, 2008 | My Jottings

This is what’s turning around and around in my mind this morning: The Big Picture. More specifically, The Big Picture of Life.

I am not a Big Picture person. I am a detail person. I would never contribute much to a committee established to bring visionary leadership to any group or company. I’m the person they would hire if they wanted their files straight, their pencils in one cup and their pens in another, and their teaspoons all nesting perfectly together. If someone wanted their towels folded first in halves, then in thirds and piled in a visually appealing way, their checkbook ledgers reconciled with their monthly statements to the penny, and their keys always at hand, then I am their gal. I have noticed that no one is lined up at my door clamoring to enlist my services, although I do think my husband appreciates the order now and then.

But I usually lose sight of The Big Picture. Detail people can do that easily. This morning I remembered that in relationships, especially in marriage, details are very important, but The Big Picture should be always on the front burners of the mind and heart.

I read an interview several months ago that jarred my thinking, and I thought of it this morning.  A fairly well-known Christian singer was talking about marriage and how difficult it can be, with two people bringing to the mix their different pieces of baggage, their patterns, their expectations, their weaknesses.  She said that in her marriage, especially when she and her husband disagree or experience tension, she asks herself (and then answers) this question: “What is the ultimate goal here? The ultimate goal isn’t to win the fight, it’s to build a life together.”

People who love details usually love to be right.  But today as I consider The Big Picture, I am reminded that our ultimate goal is to build a life together.  It’s not so important being right. It’s more important to be loving.  This is a challenging lesson for me, because my default mode is not love, it’s truth. Learning to speak and work and glance and touch and listen in love, in love, is like driving on the left side of the road for me, in a car with the steering wheel on the right side and the stick shift at my left hand.  I tried this in Great Britain a couple of years ago.  It can be done, but it takes intense concentration and determination, and God’s help.

So today I’m thinking about The Big Picture. What do I want things to look like in five years?  In twenty-five years?  When I peer ahead in my imagination to try to envision what kind of life we might have, files and towels don’t come to mind.  At all.  One thing that comes to mind is a DVD mini-series I just watched – a gift from my daughter Sharon for Mother’s Day. It’s called John Adams and is about the second President of the United States. It’s beautifully done and so worth watching.

Apparently John and Abigail Adams had a very devoted, honest, loving and intensely loyal relationship. In their letters to each other and often in person, they called each other “My dearest friend”.  The tenderness with which they regarded each other was so moving, and even into old age they seemed to both know that the other was their greatest treasure.

One doesn’t reach a marital place like this without keeping The Big Picture in mind. Details are important, but “what is the ultimate goal here?…it’s to build a life together.”  Today I am very keenly aware of what kind of building I want to do.  I need God’s help to do it, but with God, all things are possible.  (Matt. 19:26)


  1. Eric says:

    Remember that even the simplest BIG picture is made up of countless little pictures. Details and daily ritual give a great deal of meaning and reference to our lives. When I get tired of trying to figure out what I should be doing and feeling, I have a cocktail and move stuff around the living room. Feeling little and frequent bouts of happiness helps me paint my life full of good memories that, when thrown down on canvas, will likely overshadow most of the crappy ones. (or at least there might be a really big bright spot in the middle that will disract me from all of the grey.)

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