However, he did have a desire that had not yet been fulfilled. He was no longer young and he knew if he was to rest in peace he would have to see for himself the great forest. It would be a journey of several days on foot, but even though advanced in age his strength remained; working in the water for decades had hardened his muscles and his resolve. He would leave today.
The small leather pouch, which hung from his shoulder, would hold enough bread and cheese for the journey. A small flask of wine attached to his belt by a copper couplet would be sufficient; there would be streams along the way that would quench his thirst and perhaps several days without fish and small crustaceans, would sharpen his appetite for the sight he had longed to see for over half a century.
The path was narrow and the incline steeper than he had imaged. It was not too difficult, though, because his heart encouraged him and his imagination sustained his every step with images of tall trees and lush tropical greenery.
Chattering squirrels sang the man awake. He realized he had "overslept" for the sun was above the horizon. He jumped to his feet with renewed anticipation of seeing the forest. Walking steadily now on level ground, head erect, he noticed the abundance of trees on every side; they were beautiful. But where was the forest? On and on he pressed, surely he would arrive before mid-day. The foliage was very thick now and he had to stop. The path ended at a small pool of water fed by a silent spring. The large leaves obscured the hot rays of the sun and he was thankful, but...where was the forest? Disappointment started to seep into his consciousness. His food was gone, his bones were aching and the forest was no where to be seen. Dejectedly, he filled his empty wine flask with fresh water and turned to trudge back down the path that had brought him to the water's edge.
Resting his back against the cool, flat rock he was perfectly positioned to view the upward path from which he had traveled. Squinting his eyes against the rays of the sun he saw in the distance a cluster of trees....the forest!! How could it be? Had he not been standing on that very spot just hours before? He had in fact! He sat silently manipulating the facts of this discovery in his mind...he had sat beneath the giant woodland creatures, leaned against the knobby bark, drank from the artesian waters, but he had "missed" the "forest." The thought came to him as an epiphany, a thought that made his journey complete and made his adventure worthwhile by wisdom whispered; a voice not his own sounded deep and low in his soul: "...sometimes you cannot see the forest for the trees."
Immersed in our own limited discernment we overlook or misinterpret our situations. Distance, however provides a much clearer understanding of what we struggled with, what we were disappointed in, or what we felt was denied us. Truly, it seems, hind sight is 20/20. Time and space sometimes clarify the mysteries of our lives. In the words of an old gospel hymn, " I will understand it better by and by." Jesus said it this way: "You do not understand now what I am doing, but you will understand later on." (Jn. 13:7)
We must not make final judgments of our life quests until the Light shines directly in our eyes bringing clarity and perspective. Amen.