“Can’t See the Forest for the Trees.” I was a middle school English teacher for 14 years, so I love idioms like this. Idioms are expressions whose meanings cannot be understood by the words that comprise them. Confused? Try teaching a lesson on idioms to a classroom of 6th graders!
If you can’t see the forest for the trees, you are too focused on the details of a problem or situation. You don’t look at the situation as a whole or you focus on small details and fail to understand larger principles or plans. Sound familiar?
God rescued Lot and his family from the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot and his family did not want to leave the life they had established there, so in His mercy, God sent angels to lead them out. One of the angels said, “Escape for your life. Do not look back or stop anywhere in the valley. Escape to the hills, lest you be swept away” (Genesis 19:17, ESV). Unfortunately, Lot’s wife could not clearly see God’s promise that life would be far better for her once she left the sinful city she called home. On her way out of the city, she looked back, and was turned into a pillar of salt.
Lot’s wife couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
In Luke 17, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come. Jesus told them the Kingdom would not come in the way they expected. They looked for signs according to what they had learned. For example, the Pharisees expectations were from Isaiah 66:15, “For behold, the Lord will come in fire, and his chariots like the whirlwind, to render his anger in fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire” (ESV).
And there’s no doubt they were familiar with Joel 2:30-31: “And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes” (ESV).
Jesus told the Pharisees “the kingdom of God is in the midst of you” (Luke 17:21, ESV). They were so focused on looking for something that would match their expectations they missed the Messiah who stood right in front of them. The Kingdom – God Himself in the form of a man – was indeed right in front of their eyes, but they couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
In February of 2014, God asked me to leave my job as a teacher. I thought for sure I had misunderstood Him because I loved everything about teaching. Why would God ask me to leave something I loved so much, something I did well, something that brought about so much good? My husband and I prayed, and we asked others to pray. Leaving my job was confirmed and we obeyed.
I spent most of the fall trying to figure out why God had asked me to quit teaching. I was striving to uncover His reasons rather than trusting that His plan was good. Little did I know God was going to take what I perceived as a new hobby and turn it into something much bigger.
Sewing was something I had always wanted to learn but felt as if I didn’t have the time to devote to it. Not having a full-time job freed up my days, so I dug the sewing machine out of the attic, watched a lot of YouTube videos, and began to teach myself how to sew.
Unexpectedly, God began healing some of my wounds through sewing.
I lived for most of my life believing the lie: “I shouldn’t ever try anything new because I would mess things up anyway.” Taking risks, albeit small ones, by learning to sew proved to me what I had told my middle school students all along was true– making mistakes is simply part of learning. It does not mean you are stupid or that you should have known better. A large part of learning comes through making mistakes.
Healing me through sewing was only one piece of what God had in mind, and that alone would have been wonderful. However, as He usually does, God had even more in store for me.
The more I learned to sew, the more I felt as if God wanted me to do more than just make a few items of clothing for myself and for my husband. He began to talk to me about helping others. Early one morning, God flooded me with ideas – not only of different items to create and sew but also how I should start my own business. Start my own business?! I know nothing about starting or running a business. God pointed out that I didn’t need to know all of the details, and if I continued to allow Him to guide me, He would take care of the details. He has provided customers, people who do know how to start and run a business to help me, and people who are supporting my efforts in other ways. In short, I am now on a journey of creating items to sell in my small business called For Ewe, and part of the proceeds from sales are donated to an organization called Little Dresses for Africa.
Despite several people buying items and all the encouragement I’ve received to open my own shop, fear settled in, and I began to believe Satan’s lies: This is all “too big.” You don’t know what you’re doing. Who are you to think that people will want to pay money for anything you create?
I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
Thankfully, I turned to God in prayer, and He showed me His truth: It is a big idea, but I gave it to you. It’s not too big for Me. You don’t know all the details of what is involved in running a business, but I do – and so do the people I have placed in your life to help you. Who are you? You are My daughter – a daughter of the One True King! I am creative, generous, and all-sufficient. Rely on me, and you won’t go wrong.
Had I allowed myself to believe the lies instead of His truth, or if I had continued to focus on how I don’t have a business background, I would have missed out on the incredible opportunity to serve God, to help His children, and to bring God’s Kingdom to people who are interested in buying my creations.
God also told me He was giving me a gift. I didn’t quite understand what He was talking about. I quit teaching because He asked me to, and I had hoped His reason was because my husband and I would soon become parents. It has been seven months since the school year started, and we are still childless. I have to admit I have been very frustrated and angry at times. Quitting my job would make more sense to me if I had a good reason – like being pregnant – but even then I had always thought I would continue to teach throughout pregnancy even up to the day I delivered. I kept searching for the reason why God asked me to stop teaching. If the reason wasn’t pregnancy, there had to be some other reason, didn’t there? God told me if I had followed my plan, I would have been miserable. He had something better for me, but I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.
God continues to show me His plan is far better than mine. In His merciful and loving way, God not only gave me time to adjust to leaving teaching but also time to adjust to all the new things He brought into my life. He has eased me into learning how to rest, and He is redefining my idea of what it means to be a stay-at-home wife (to then one day be a stay-at-home mom). God has taught me to truly love taking care of our home, taking care of my husband and supporting him in his work, developing meaningful friendships with other women, and spending more time with Him.
He gave me time to adjust to my new normal before He revealed to me that He wanted me to start my own business. I never thought I’d enjoy being a housewife. I didn’t think it could be fulfilling, but I had a distorted view of what being a housewife meant. Thankfully, God is redefining so many of my former beliefs, and He is showing me how to love all the new things He is bringing to me. Had all of this been thrust upon me in addition to taking care of a newborn, I don’t think I would be able to use the word “love” to describe my feelings for any of it.
God also reminds me He has given me this time to be me. Not me as a wife, a teacher, a mom, a business owner, or all the other roles I create for myself. Instead, this is time to just be His daughter and to learn what it means to allow Him to father me. That is quite a gift! I had been so focused on figuring out why God asked me to quit my job, wanting to be a mom, and trying to navigate these new waters, I almost missed what a loving, gracious, and extravagantly generous Father God truly is.
The forest is quite lovely once you learn to look past all those trees.
God, what am I focused on that has caused me to miss the bigger picture You have planned for me? What have I allowed to block my view of You and Your plan for my life? Father, I invite You in and ask You to clear away the trees. Clear a path for me that leads straight to You. Show me what it means to allow You to father me. Show me what it means to be Your child. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.