If you’re thinking that the title of this post is backwards, you’d be right. The famous saying is the reverse of this. It says; “you can’t see the forest for the trees”. It’s a statement that basically says that you’re too close to the detail to see the big picture, and it certainly has its application. We can often be so close to a problem, that we fail to step back and recognize the larger issue.
In today’s culture however, I’d suggest that more often, the opposite is true. Everyone and everything is categorized, pigeon holed and put into a box with a name on it. We’ve lost the ability (and frankly the interest) in taking the time to know those who may be a little different from ourselves. We don’t even take the time to know the people that are not so different, which in reality, is most us.
As we do with the trees, we stand at a distance and see the forest, but each individual tree just becomes a blur. The fact is that each tree is unique. It has it’s own root system, each is a different size and there’s typically a number of different species within the same forest. They’re different ages, with different life experiences.
Some trees have had healthy, uneventful lives with plenty of sunshine and water. Some of the older trees may have seen seasons of drought, flooding or fire. There are trees that have been attacked by disease, infestation or the ax.
But if we stand too far back, we don’t see any of that. It’s just all a bunch of trees…no real differences and if there are any, we’re not all that interested. It’s a forest and we don’t really need to know much more than that.
But this is not what Jesus teaches us. In fact, his life and ministry demonstrates just the opposite. Story after story demonstrates Jesus’ interest and care for the individual. Beginning in Luke chapter 8 vs 40 we see Jesus’ care for the dying daughter of a synagogue ruler, and the bleeding woman. In Luke 19:1-9 we see the calling of Zacchaeus from the tree (there’s that tree again!). These are just a few of the many examples, of Jesus stopping to recognize, care about and for, the individual.
There are perhaps, no greater teachings on the value of the individual, than those found in Luke 15. Here we find in succession, the stories of The Lost Sheep, The Lost Coin and culminating with The Lost Son.
In the first, we see the story of the sheep owner who leaves his 99 sheep, to find the one that’s lost. Bare in mind that he must first recognize the fact that one is missing. Not an easy task in a flock of a hundred. In the parable of the lost coin, the woman must have kept careful account of her coins to have recognized that one was missing. Are we as cognizant when “one” is missing at work or at church, or do we just see the forest and not notice?
The Story of the Lost Son (or the prodigal son as it is commonly known), is perhaps the most poignant in terms of driving home, not only the value of the one, but the joy that takes place when that one is found.
As we walk through our day, let’s make a commitment to do three things. First, recognize the one among the many. Next, place value on that one and recognize that the one has a story that needs to be told and heard. Lastly, render care to the one. That care can take many forms, but if we’re listening, both to the Holy Spirit and to the one, we’ll become sensitive to what that care should look like and how we’re supposed to provide it.
If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know this. If a man begins to fall among us, we must have our radar up so that we hear the falling and once having heard it, are there to catch him. The one is unique and matters to God, and so of course, should matter to us. Let’s take the time to see the “tree” and not just lump it in with the rest of the forest.