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Saturday, October 11, 2014

See the tree, not the forest

If you have ever tried to watch everything at one time, you know just how difficult this task can be - somehow you always miss something!  We have finite brains, capable of taking in only so much stimuli that we can process at one time.  Based on what we process, we make various interpretations, take certain actions, and watch for further developments.  This is part of living.  Yet, none of us can say we watch so closely as to NEVER miss a thing!  In fact, if I were honest I would tell you of the times I had been watching so closely to see what God would do in a particular circumstance, only to have missed him moving just a little further down the road than I was focusing!  What happened?  I just wasn't looking where he was acting!  He focused on another area of my life, or perhaps in ordering some particular set of circumstances, but I missed it all together - seeing only the end results, but oblivious to the exact way they happened!  We probably are all like this now and again - just focusing so intently on one thing and missing where God is moving just a little bit down the road.  If we were even a little more honest, we might recount how we just simply weren't watching close at all, falling head-long into some pothole in our path and having to pick ourselves up from some pretty messy happenings.  What happened there?  Our focus was just too broad. We missed the pothole because we were just gazing at the scenery!  So, life is a little bit of focusing intently, but not so intently that we cannot see the bigger picture.

The Lord sees everything, and he watches us closely. Sinners are trapped and caught by their own evil deeds. They get lost and die because of their foolishness and lack of self-control. (Proverbs 5:21-23 CEV)

Something happens when our focus is not on the right stuff, though.  We fall into the messy circumstances of life which we'd definitely like to avoid.  Although the context of this entire chapter in Proverbs is really about remaining faithful to your spouse (sexual purity), it is kind of good to read these last three verses and remember them in context to all we focus on in life.  God sees everything - he has the "bigger picture" we sometimes just don't have access to see.  He watches us closely - we are part of that "bigger picture" he has constantly in his focus.  Some may think the next verse really is just a reminder that God sees everything, so don't get "caught" doing anything wrong.  In a very literal sense, you could say this is the case, but when we put these three verses in context with what has been said in the opening five chapters of Proverbs, here's what we find:

1) We need to pursue wisdom - for nothing will guide us in life quite like the pursuit of the person of Christ.  In context, wisdom is found in a person, not in an amassing of knowledge. We pursue Christ, keeping our focus on him, and we will possess the wisdom to make the right choices when the circumstances change and we need to respond.

2) We have been given mothers and fathers to help "raise" us up in the right way we are to live.  Some of us don't think the examples we were given in our "natural" parents was all that great, and you may not be far from the truth.  Yet, in God's special way, he provides for what we didn't have in a natural sense - by giving us "spiritual parents" to help us develop this right sense of living.  Embrace their advice and listen to their reminders - what you may gain is your life!

3) We have not only been given knowledge, we have something known as "common sense" to help us in times where a lack of clarity exists.  We can ask God, sometimes not quite hearing what he is saying.  We can seek the counsel of wise people such as parents / spiritual parents, again not getting the degree of clarity we need.  When all else seems to just fall a little short of giving us the full picture, we have this thing known as common sense to guide us.  If our conscience and what we know to be true don't disagree, we can move forward because we have used some common sense in making the decision.  

4) We are called to listen and obey.  We sometimes get this backwards, though.  We think we can obey without really listening.  The truth is, we put the cart before the horse if we think obedience can come before really listening to the counsel of God!  This is why he asks us to take time with him each day, listen to the wisdom of those he places in our lives, and then to match up what he provides in his Word, times of meditation, and the counsel we have received with what we "know" to be true (common sense).  Listen first - then take action.  If we'd just get that one lesson down, we'd avoid a whole lot of potholes along the way.

This brings us to the recap of our three verses above - God sees everything and watches us closely.  It isn't because he wants to catch us "tripping up", but because he wants us to be successful in our walk with him. He wants us to actually avoid those potholes along the way! The joy does not come in the discovery of the pothole, but in knowing how to avoid it so we don't find ourselves tripped up by our own lack of self-control.  All which has been pointed to up to this point in this Book of Proverbs is summed up in using the knowledge we have been given, coupled with the wisdom of good counsel, and the evidence of our conscience / common sense to assist us in making good decisions which will help us to stay on solid footing in life.  Trust the one with the "bigger picture" to guide your path and orchestrate your outcomes, but don't get so caught up in the "scenery" that you lose focus of the path you travel!  Just sayin!