Lately, I have been reflecting on the balance between being ‘in the moment’ and seeing the bigger picture. In the book, ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Covey gives the example of a tree lopper who is totally focused on how to cut down a tree – how to do it safely, cutting it so it falls in the right direction, and clearing a path so he can get in as much machinery as possible. This is an extremely important job as it keeps everyone safe and keeps things moving with speed and minimal problems. However, if you’re stuck looking at the tree in front of you, how do you know if you’re even in the right forest? Covey then gives the example of someone climbing the tallest tree in the forest and looking out above everything, surveying the landscape and taking clues from the bigger picture, because it’s only then that you can see whether you are chopping trees in the right forest, or not!
On the other side of the equation, you might be in the right forest but if you aren’t in the moment, watching the tree, considering, calculating, taking the time to cover all the bases, you aren’t going to get much out of it. Not only that, you are likely to hurt yourself or others because your head’s ‘in the clouds’.
Now the question is, how in the world does this fit into anything religious? Well, I have been working with our Interns on a Sunday School lesson with ‘Puzzles’ as its theme. We applied Covey’s ideas to the disciples when they had locked themselves away ‘for fear of the Jews’. They were clearly stuck in the moment of what they were experiencing and weren’t seeing the bigger picture of what Jesus had accomplished. They had all the pieces of the puzzle as Jesus had told them, specifically, what would happen. But they didn’t see the picture as a whole and, therefore, they could not put those pieces together. It wasn’t until Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be with you” that what had happened dawned on them,and the pieces started coming together. When they realised they were in fact ‘in the right forest’, all of a sudden everything Jesus had said and taught them started to make sense.
Lately, I have also been practising exercises to help me concentrate on my breathing. This, together with prayer, has helped me to be grateful for the great things in my life that God has provided, and also to ask for guidance as I look at the bigger picture. I find it extremely easy for the feelings of the moment to colour my prayers. I am led by what sits under the surface, such as my fear about being in the right forest or whether the tree I am about to lop is about to fall on someone’s head, and then I wonder why I don’t feel settled after I have prayed!
Finding what settles you is very important and this is different for different people. A walk in nature, a ride on your bike, a quiet moment with a cup of tea, or maybe a chat with your best friend- these are the things that settle us and allow us to find the balance between the forest and the trees.