Too Close
By Anthony Casperson

I always feel a little strange when letting people see the miniatures that I’ve painted. Not out of fear that they’ll say that my paint job sucks. But rather because I know where every flaw is.

And every time I look at the mini, all I see is where the shading pooled slightly too far out. Or I see where the colors didn’t blend just right. Or I remember how this mini’s eye coloration was a few millimeters too far to the side, and they look a little cross-eyed when you get right up close.

But that’s really the issue. I’ve gotten much closer to the problem areas than anyone else has. Most people looking at the minis hold it out to look at the overall effect. They don’t put it inches from their face, or look at it through a magnifier. The problems look so much bigger when you’re too close. But when you look at them from a more zoomed out view, those problems and mistakes often blend into a beautiful whole that can never be seen from up close.

Those problem areas meld into the whole in a way that we don’t realize until we step back and take a wider view of the whole.

The same thing is true of our lives as well. We feel like this one mistake will make us unlovable. Or this one failure will forever mark us as unwanted. Or this one sin will make God realize how terrible of a person we are. Or this one problem area will forever keep us from achieving what we’re supposed to do.

We forget that God can take those difficulties and failures to paint his beauty in our lives. And showcase his glory in the work of salvation.

Our failures don’t keep him from being able to use us. And our difficulties don’t prove that he’s unable to deal with our problems. God has a plan for this world. And he sees it from a different perspective than we do.

It takes time and practice for us to see the bigger picture that God is painting. When we’re in the middle of failure, addiction, depression, and anxiety, we’re too close to the problem to witness the majesty of the whole. All we can see are the problems instead of how beautifully they blend into the paint job of God.

When the people of Judah had sinned against God, and some were sent off in exile to Babylon, it seemed to them that their sins had made God hate them. And the removal from his Promised Land was a punishment that would never end. There was no beauty to the lives they would experience from now on.

But God sent them a word that called them to see a broader perspective in Jeremiah 29:10-14. Though the exiles felt that their problems left them as an unwanted mess, God tells them that he has a plan for them. A plan that leads to a future and a hope. They would return to the Promised Land. They were not too broken and marred for God to use them. He hadn’t left them to suffer on their own. The day would come when they realized just how much they needed God. And he would be right there waiting for them.

It’s important for us to not directly apply the promise to these exile into our lives. The promised future and hope of Jeremiah 29 was for the exiles. But these words do show us the type of God that we serve.

He has a plan. Even when we don’t have any understanding how it’ll all fit together. Even if it takes years to witness the beauty. Even if we’re just one part of a grander design—like some of the exiles who didn’t live long enough for those 70 years to find their completion.

There’s a beauty to the whole picture that includes our faults and scars. A stroke of glory that might look like a mistake when we’re too close, but is blended perfectly into his holy plan.

Honestly, to those of us in the midst of problems, these words might not bring us the comfort we want. It would feel much better to not have to suffer, while still standing in the beauty of our God. We’d prefer a different way to achieve the same effect.

But the truth is that God’s plan is perfect. Difficult for some of us, yes. And painful too. But it would never achieve the same blended effect without that seeming mistake.

So, cry out to God. Wail and scream out to him in the pain and suffering. Wish that things were different. When we’re too close to the problems, that’s about all that we can do.

But don’t forget that God has a plan for the world that’s working out exactly as is needed for our good and his glory. And one day, take the time to stand back and see the beauty of the whole work of God.

We’ll be amazed at his work.