Focusing On The Forest

You're focusing on the stump.

Somebody said that to me once. I had no idea what he was talking about. As it turned out, it was very wise advise, and something I think of a few times a week to this day. You're focusing on the stump.

We all do it.  We look past the forest, and focus on that one dead stump in the middle. We miss seeing all the different trees. We miss seeing the sunlight streaming down through the branches. We miss seeing the squirrels playing in the leaves. We don't see the little white flowers blooming in the open spots where the sunlight gets through. We don't smell the fresh air, or enjoy the cool breeze. We don't hear the sounds of the birds. 

We see that one ugly dead stump, and that's all we think about. We think about how that dead stump is messing up the forest.

It's easy to think like that. To obsess on that one thing that's bothering us, that one thing that's not quite right with us, and fail to see the entire picture. But there's a simple way to get out of that thinking when we catch ourselves doing it.  Simply focus on the forest.

When I get in one of the funks, and I do more often than I'd like to admit, I find one thing works better than just about anything else in helping me change my attitude. Look for the things that are going right. Look for the blessings. Look for the things we can be grateful for. And write them down. Not in the morning. Not in the evening. Not during a special time of the week, but right when you realize you're focusing on the wrong thing.  Change course.  Change your focus.

There's been times when I'm having difficulties at work when I'll skip my lunch hour, and just spend that time writing down things I'm grateful for--sometimes I can fill several journal pages without thinking very hard about it at all.  And when the writing slows down, I just keep going until I get to point when I can look at all those things on my list that are right, and realize that stump I've been focused on isn't really that big a deal after all.

And we need those stumps--they may test our patience, but there is nothing that makes us stronger than a challenge. They test us. They help to build our character by learning to deal with problems big and small with grace and patience. God throws them into our path to build us up. Like it says in James 1:2-4, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."

And there's nothing more affirming to our continued development than overcoming a challenge with grace and dignity . . . and gratitude.


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