I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the expression “she can’t see the forest for the trees.” It’s an old expression (wonder where it came from?) and so familiar that it’s become trite, but trite expressions usually become that way because there’s truth in them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the fact that when we get stuck in our problems, enmeshed in the exhausting business of just making it through the next round of whatever it is we need to make it through, we really do lose perspective. Fast.
Losing perspective is hard. When you’re busy just looking at the trees that loom all around you, or even the one giant tree (maybe fallen over, blocking your path) you sometimes can’t think of anything else. In true times of emergency or crisis, maybe it’s a blessing that our vision gets so narrowed, but I’m talking about other times, times when a given challenge in our lives (or a combination of challenges) just leaves us so bone weary that all we can think about is that one tree right in front of us.
It becomes huge. Why are its limbs so scratchy? Why is it so big? How are we ever going to get over it or past it or around it? Is there even a way? Why does forward feel so impossible?
We look at it and we lose ourselves in the details of that one thing to the point that we can’t even begin to look all around us. We lose the sense that there are other paths possible around the tree. We lose gratitude for anything good about the tree. We forget we’re in a forest that has other things in it too – not just other trees but grass and plants and bushes and birds and rabbits and sun filtering through branches and dancing shadows. We forget that the forest is in a larger world and that there’s sky above it and that all of it, all of it, is owned by the maker of everything. And that the maker of everything can help us.
Sometimes I think we need to learn to walk away from the tree. Not permanently, but just for a while. Whatever the tree is, we can trust it with God. We can walk into another part of the forest and breathe deep for a while, breathe slow, breathe peace and prayers. Maybe when we walk back to the tree, it won’t loom quite so huge or take up all our mental space and emotional energy. Maybe we can even begin to remember the beauty of the forest all around us.