I have never thought as long about any blog post as I have about this one. It’s been months, and I still feel like I’m not ready to write it. There may be multiple parts to follow.
It’s something I’m learning which applies to every aspect of our lives.
It’s the art of zooming out.
How the heck do I describe it?
Last night I was playing frisbee at a park in Denver as the pink sun set behind the Rocky Mountains. It was a beautiful night: Just cool enough to run around shirtless and not overheat. The game was great; the teams were split evenly and we went back and forth on the scoreboard for a while, until my team made a number of blunders and the other team shot several points ahead of us.
I started to get upset.
Then, I went to block this one dude’s pass and was successful. Unfortunately, he was whipping it across the entire field and I was point blank in front of him, catching the frisbee directly in the wrist. It hurt. A lot. I couldn’t use my right hand for several minutes. It’s still swollen.
I began to get angry.
I stopped running for the disc and just walked, while the other players ran all around me. After a few minutes of moping, I started to tell myself,
I wasn’t mad because we were down a couple points and I had made a (beautiful) block and hurt my wrist. I wasn’t mad at my teammate’s blunders, or even my own for that matter.
I was upset because my car broke down a few days ago and I’m deep in debt. I was upset because I’m not a huge fan of my new job (even though no job is good in the first week), and because the kids in my youth group are little termites whom I want to set on fire, and have really been testing my patience and wearing me down the past few weeks.
I was upset because I just want to hold someone’s hand. It’s been over five years since I’ve had one to grasp and the thundering pain of loneliness has been shivering up and down my spine lately. More so since I passed the midpoint of my twenties almost a year ago. I was upset because I’m battling my necessary millennial quarter-life crisis and the existential pangs of God’s silence has been wearing heavier than usual on me lately.
That’s why I was upset.
See what happened there? I zoomed out.
Suddenly I wasn’t as upset about the score of the game or my throbbing wrist. Suddenly a lot of smaller things got out of the way and made room for bigger things to occupy my thoughts.
I think this applies to every area of life. Everything that makes up your whole, entire life should be zoomed out. Your bank account, your anger and sadness, your addictions and vices. Your entertainment and friend group.
Because if you zoom out far enough, you always get to God.
What’s bigger than Him? How can you zoom out beyond Him? How can you see far enough to look past Him? How can you think hard enough to describe Him? What kind of mechanism can dissect Him?
Derrida would call this deconstruction, but I think it’s the opposite. We are not zooming in so as to lose the picture in favor of the colorful blobs like the lilies of Van Gogh. We are stepping back. We are seeing ourselves in light of a bigger picture. We are seeing ourselves—our current situation—through the eyes of Someone infinitely bigger than we are.
So zoom out.
The art of zooming out reminds us that everything is theological. I may be upset that my clutch blew out and I’m down $800, but what good is worrying about that when I remember that Jesus had His skin ripped off for me? Suddenly my issues become much smaller when they’re held against the greatness of God.
In the words of Rob Bell, this is really about that. Your anger at your wife isn’t really about how she puts the dishes away; it’s about something deeper in you. His cutting episodes aren’t really about enjoying the feeling; they’re about something else.
We don’t watch porn because we prefer 2-dimensional screens to actual human touch. We don’t fall into substance addictions because we like putting foreign substances into our arms through needles.
This is really about that.
What’s happening in this bigger picture? The one you may not see unless you…
When you think about God, do you think small thoughts? Do our perceptions of God Himself need to be zoomed out? Are we confining Him with our narrow lenses? Is He truly transcendent, or is He simply another addition to our lives?
I was chatting with my counselor an hour ago and he used a fitting analogy. He likes cooking, so he told me that our lives are like stews. We put in things we like, such as hobbies, jobs, friends, families, and interests. These are the meat and veggies in the stew. But God? God is the broth. God is what makes this stew a stew. In Him do the rest of the ingredients come together. He, like the broth, infuses the rest of the ingredients and binds them together, infusing them with flavor and life. Without Him, you just have a random pot of loose, dry ingredients.
He is in all and through all.
He is not just an ingredient in your life; He is the source of all things. Zoom out far enough from anything and you will always find Him and what He is doing. You will see Him making all things new and invading every area of your life.
We are a stressed out people. We tend to only see ourselves. In the words of my theology teacher, ‘we are very folded in on ourselves.’ We are people who get hung up and distracted by small things, forsaking the bigger picture for a small detail which isn’t going our way.
May we be people who know how to unclench our fists, let go of our preferences and opinions and learn how to see things and people other than ourselves. May we be people who can
PS, Like I said above, this is just a very rough and introductory post which by no means is meant to be comprehensive. I’m still trying to figure out how to zoom out. To see something bigger than myself. Questions? Comments? Where should I go with this in the next post?
Not sure where you’re going with this Ethan- but it sounds like another best seller to me😄
As someone who has been there let me tell you it will be a while before you “zoom out” One thing that really helped me was being fed up with my own pity party of things that have been going wrong. It was one moment that brought everything into sharp focus, it was a camera moment in which I zoomed in and out and rotated and decided I was not the open minded, accepting individual I thought I was and finally stepped back and decided I was but a small person in a much large world. I humbled myself and thought that my cars flat tire making me miss my class saved me from a tragedy. Was it God’s plan? I cannot say but I will like to think so. That everything, everything has a purpose and that I must accept the things I cannot change. Sounds familiar. The Serenity Prayer was my trigger of “zooming out” it rang, and rang in my head, heart and spirit to just stop and look and wait. I hope you find your own “zoom out’ trigger, when you do, the world as you know it becomes so much clearer. You start to see your termites as precious and your loneliness as peacefulness (I’ve been single way longer than you so I know loneliness all to well) and God is no longer in the back but in front of you as you said “setting things anew” he’s not just there but beside you holding your hand that you feel empty. Good Luck! It’s going to be an enlightening journey ahead. May you see the people of the world and the universe along side God!
Going deeper into This is really about that. I saw that a lot as a teacher. Often, if a student lashed out at me, it was because there was something going on somewhere else.
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This is great! Thanks for the reminder of keeping things in perspective and aligned with Him! 🙌🏽
Yes. Perfectly said.
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