The Bigger Picture

Artist: Daniel Lee

- Jen Wise

Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels." And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power."

- Mark 8:31-9:1 

I feel for Peter. Isn’t that always the way? Just when we’re so sure, just when we think we’ve got it figured out, that’s when everything turns upside down. Almost immediately after the disciples pronounce that Jesus is in fact their long awaited Messiah, Jesus stuns them with the news of his imminent execution. Just when Peter thinks he’s on the right track, he learns that the right track is fraught with persecution and death. 

Most of us would react the same way—yet here we see Jesus rebuke Peter, challenging his mindset and outlook. Peter has lost sight of the bigger, divine picture. 

It’s hard to set our minds on divine things, when the human things feel so all encompassing. It’s hard enough when our biggest problem is, "my child refused to put on shoes so now we’re late and I can’t stop for an Americano!" or, "we have a leak so I have to cancel my meeting and miss spin class to wait at home for a plumber!" It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day scramble.  

How much more difficult is it even, to set our minds on divine things when we’re being swallowed up by heartbreak, suffering, and pain. How do we set our minds on divine things when we’re not just dealing with an inconvenience, but a new and devastating way of life?  

The interesting thing here is that Jesus follows up this call with an assurance: his death and resurrection will usher in the kingdom of God with power—defeating evil, pain, suffering, and heartbreak. The devastating news that Jesus delivered to his followers is actually good news for them, and for all of us. It’s this good news that we need to cling to in the day-to-day frustrations, and in the life-shattering catastrophes: Jesus’ death and resurrection means that all that’s broken in the world and in us will be made healed and whole. 

Still, how do we cling to this hope and set our mind on the divine when it’s so much easier to zone out on Facebook or fill our days with distractions? It’s essential to know what things in our lives serve as signposts of God’s promises, and to seek those out. When we don’t have the spiritual and emotional strength to open Scripture, when we lack words and faith to pray, when we’re barely hanging on, where do we turn? 

This will look different for each of us. Personally, I experience unique clarity and honesty before God when lying on my yoga mat during final meditation. I find encouragement in my own faith when I listen to the faith-filled prayers of others. Maybe for you taking a jog along the water triggers a reminder that God is here, in all of this. Maybe you have a trusted family member who speaks the truth and encouragement your heart needs. Maybe there’s a certain song that you need to sing, even if through gritted teeth.

While not traditional spiritual disciplines, these practices may be just what cracks the door open, allowing you to fling it wide and let the light of good news flood in.

Daniel Lee came to Philadelphia via Duncanville, TX with a decade long stop in Berkeley, CA.  By day he is an architect. By night he is a children’s book reader and diaper changer. He lives in South Philly with his wife Grace and kids, Olivia and Owen.