the spice box “On seeing the forest”

By Sharon Robertson, Lt. Colonel

There’s an old adage about not being able to see the forest because the trees keep getting in the way. Failure to look at the greater picture because we get so caught up in the details is not uncommon. In fact, if we habitually look only at solving the conundrum immediately before us, we too often fail to recognize the impact (positive or negative) our clever conclusions may have on our children, or our children’s children. In the interests of expediency, we fail to ask ourselves, “Will the world be a better place—will the kingdom of God be advanced—as a result of my decision today?”

I suspect each of us could cite examples of how a rash decision based on too little information—and too little attention to possible consequences overall—has contributed to unforeseen and undesirable results. It is easy to criticize our predecessors for lack of foresight but not quite so easy to apply the same scrutiny to our own decisions.

It has been said that “the devil is in the details,” meaning that good, noble goals and plans can get fouled up or derailed by lack of adequate attention to the nitty-gritty details of planning and implementation. Certainly the devil has had a great deal of input into a good many of our most promising Christian endeavors simply because we failed to take into account the contingencies, especially those contingencies relating to human emotions, actions and reactions.

There is a certain very human tendency to impose our will and decisions on others, implying, “Here, take this. It will be good for you!” and an equally human tendency to react negatively to the imposed plan, as a child may spit out a dose of ill-tasting but well-intended medication.

For the Christian it is critical that the devil doesn’t get a chance to foul up the details. This can only be realized by making certain that in every endeavor “God is in the details”—that we make certain our plans, our thoughts, our decisions, our actions and our reactions have been made in partnership with God himself, that he has tutored and guided us as we explore options and work out details for implementation. We are responsible, not only to lay out our plans before him for approval, but to consult with him at every step, on every detail, recognizing that where “God is in the detail” God will also be in the overall outcome. Our God is incapable of not seeing the greater picture; when we are attentive to his direction, he will see his purposes achieved.

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