I dedicate this piece to my friend, Melinda at “Traveling the Road Home”, who graciously afforded me the use of this picture from one of her recent trips. It grabbed me the moment I saw it on her blog, and it has taken me a few days to put some words around it. I pray they speak its witness accordingly. Thanks, friend.
What do you see when you look at this picture?
I see beauty. I see between. I see beyond.
My eyes refuse the focus of the cluttered clustering trees and instead focus on the entirety of the painted landscape. Rather than get bogged down in the details, I breathe in the witness of a well-planned masterpiece …
the forest instead of the trees.
The full and lush of a long ago planting, seeded by the hands of nature and through the intent of a loving God who visions at a higher level than me. Who paints with a perfected end in mind rather than settling for a partial finish. Who gives careful attention to the details so that the finished product breathes with the life and vitality of exacting and necessary brushstrokes. Who gives us his creation to teach us something about eternal visioning and forever focus.
Lived and walked in the details, all the way through to the end—to the other side of the forest where clutter gives way to spacious living. Where shadowed existences give way to God’s lighted embrace, and where the backward glance at the trees left behind fills in the gaps about seasons previously misunderstood.
The ancients of Hebrews 11 understood about faith and the potential cluttering therein. They were commended for their focus … for seeing the forest as their bridge to home rather than as an obstacle to prevent their arrival. Refusing to be overwhelmed by the maze of tangled brambles and knotted roots along the way, they set their eyes on the faint glimmers of a finish that sparkled its radiance light through the dim masking of branches and foliage.
Their vision leveled toward completion.
“All of these people were living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
A city … just beyond the trees. A better country that houses the perfected end of the process that we now walk. A permanent dwelling where the din and lies of the forest are replaced with the splendor of God’s eternal peace and truthful witness.
Friends, if ever we needed the witness of eternity’s truth, it is now. We are walking through a tree-laden season of volatile living. The chaos and clutter of an electoral process is leaving most of us confused and pointedly focused on the trees that obstacle rather than on the forest that divinely shapes. Our minds landscape with the ugly and contrary nature of a temporary foliage that refuses to budge and that so easily trips.
We fight understanding as we soldier on. We refuse to bend and to bow to the trees’ cloistering for fear that in doing so, we will never make it beyond their branchy embrace. Rather than concede to the process of our perfection via difficult trees, we slash at their bark with our words, with our hateful intent, and with our neglect to love.
We fear the outcome, even though the outcome was never ours to fear. What happens in our country over the next few weeks does matter. It is important. But our perfected end, and God’s sovereignty in the matter, isn’t so fragile that it cannot abide an Obama or a McCain presidency.
God has never intended for our focus to stop mid-forest. To freeze frame on a single tree or on a single event in history that was only ever intended to be one miniscule part of the whole. The enemy would like nothing better than to stop us in our tracks and to have us think that the next president will be our savior. The truth is…
No man or woman will ever or could ever hold that title.
There is only One who is worthy of such an honor. His pilgrimage through the forest would require that his Father journey deep into its dark in order to cut the one tree that would house and hold his surrender. He did, so that our requirement would be less. So that we could walk it through to the other side with temporal wounds that bleed less and never lasting. Christ didn’t journey without forethought. He walked with one purpose in mind.
The forest for the trees.
The beauty, between, and beyond of a portrait that was painted long before he allowed us any voice or any vote in the matter.
Is God concerned about our now? Perhaps, but only as it pertains to his completed masterpiece. Is God involved in our now? Absolutely, because what he has in mind is a canvas that is brushstroked with the truth of his ample sacrifice—an end that is painted with the blood of Calvary’s grace. And that, precious readers, will always warrant his attention and his brush.
We are almost home, nearly finished and nearly perfect. God is after our beauty, both individually and collectively as a people. No thing or no one person will thwart his kingdom agenda. No matter the trappings and confinement of a few temporary trees … no matter the outcome of a presidential election … God’s light is still shining through the branches of our dim and our confusion. He is calling us through to the other side, and one day soon, our backward glance will afford us a beautiful understanding for the cluttered shaping that we now walk.
When I am fearful, Lord, with the confusion from the trees that surround my life, remind me of the forest that houses the completeness of your plan. Illuminate each step with the light of your forward focus that will keep me moving in the right direction and in the full assurance of what awaits me on the other side. This season is my season—one that you have ordained for my steps and for the steps of the country that I call home. Keep us, Father, in perfect rhythm with your will. And when I am tempted to consign such understanding to the fragile minds of men, forgive me for assigning them with too much. You, alone, are the King of my heart and my life. Only you can carry me on to my perfection and to your intended end. Humbly, I bow to the beauty of your trees this night. Amen.
Copyright © October 2008 – Elaine Olsen. All rights reserved