Looking Through the Leaves

The window at my kitchen sink is the window I look out more than any in my house.  For the longest time, the view out of this window was probably the least attractive of any view from any other window.

When I looked out this window, most of my view was over the top of our fence and directly at a big, metal storage building that our neighbor built right at the edge of our property.  I longed for something more attractive to look at as I would stand and wash dishes or prepare a meal.  An ornamental tree would be perfect.  There was an ideal spot to plant one; just the right size, and just in the line of sight of the big metal monstrosity.  So, as an anniversary gift, my husband and I gave each other a Japanese Maple.

Not only has this tree blocked an unsightly view, it has provided me with hours of entertainment.  Scores of kittens that have been born at our house have honed their climbing skills up the trunk and onto the branches of this tree.  It has shaded the bird bath that has been placed near it, giving our feathered friends a cool, shady place to drink and to splash when filled… and giving our cats a place to nap when it often goes dry.

But my favorite fringe benefit of having this tree planted here is the fact that it provides a resting place and social gathering spot for so many different birds.  Over the years I must have spent hours watching the sparrows, the robins, the mockingbirds, the blue jays, and my favorites… the cardinals.  It’s especially enjoyable to watch a pair of cardinals, male and female, fly in for a rest and a visit to the bird bath.

My kitchen window faces eastward, so I can keep my window shades raised all day without worrying about the heat of the afternoon summer sun causing the temperature in my kitchen to rise to uncomfortable levels.  There is, however, one brief period of time in mid-morning when the sun is at just the right level as it crests above the roof of my neighbor’s house, when it is almost impossible to try to look out the window.  That’s when I have to lower the window shades temporarily.

As I was washing dishes one morning, at that particular time of morning when the sunshine streams in through the window directly at the level of my eyes, something caught my attention.  I could see lots of movement in the shadow of our Japanese Maple.  When the sun is at that particular level, as its rays make an attempt to come through the shade-protected kitchen window, it casts a shadow of the Japanese Maple on my window shade.  It’s really a lovely thing in itself, that delicately, lacy outline of all those dainty little leaves.  But this morning there was something exciting, maybe even dangerous, going on in that tree.

I could determine by the shadows that there were at least two of what I assumed were birds moving through the branches of the trees in an erratic fashion and at quite the rapid pace.  I had to see what was happening.  I slowly and carefully raised the shade, so as not to disrupt the goings-on in the tree.  What did I see when the shade was raised?  Glare.  Blur.  Brightness that my eyes were not equipped to deal with that contrasted against the dark, burgundy hues of the leaves.  The sun that shone through was so intense it disrupted my ability to focus.  My pupils couldn’t determine whether to open more widely to more easily distinguish between the various dark shapes, or whether to close to the size of pinholes to prevent momentary blindness.  Quickly lowering the window shade, I once again could determine the shapes hurriedly fluttering in and out through the branches.  Some things simply have to be viewed through some sort of filter.

By nature I am a curious person.  I like to know the “why” behind the “what” that’s happening.  I am also a borderline control freak (my husband would only disagree with this statement because I included the word “borderline”).  These two traits don’t always make for a good combination.  Often times after delving deeply into circumstances, I realize that I was interested in finding out the “whys” for the most part so that I could attempt to control them.  I want to see the big picture.  I want to know how the story ends, and every twist and turn it will take along the way.

God designed me specifically as I am, and He doesn’t make mistakes.  I’m not saying that He gave me both of those character traits, looked at His handiwork and said “Oh, no!  I didn’t mean to do that!”  He wanted me to have both.  He has given each of us multifaceted personalities that allow us to sparkle like precious jewels.  He has given me the ability to swim and the ability to sleep, but He doesn’t intend for me to try to use them both at the same time.  His intention is for us to use our abilities, and our character traits, with the wisdom He has also so graciously given each of us.  And in His infinite wisdom, He has His own “window shade” that He often draws closed to limit our ability to see every detail of our life’s “big picture.”

It was frustrating seeing all of that movement in the tree and not knowing what was happening.  I wondered what I was missing.  Maybe there was some different type of bird in our tree that I hadn’t been able to watch before.  Perhaps there was a snake in the tree that frightened the birds.  If so, I needed to get out there and kill it before it got in our water garden.  Whatever was going on… I needed to see it so I could determine whether or not I should get involved.

But it was even more frustrating when I raised that window shade and couldn’t distinguish a single thing that was happening.  If not for the fact that I helped plant that Japanese Maple where it was, I wouldn’t have been able to determine that I was looking at a tree.  All I could see was an unbearably bright light amidst a multitude of small, dark, moving shapes.  As a matter of fact, it was easier to see some things with the window shade drawn.  Granted, I couldn’t determine what kind of bird or birds were in the tree, or exactly what they were doing.  But, with the shade drawn to filter much of the brightness, I at least could determine that there was a bird in the tree that was very excited about something.

Often times I am equally frustrated with the “filter” that God pulls closed over my life’s windows.  I can’t see everything that’s happening.  I don’t know all the details.  I can’t determine whether or not there is a situation in which I should intervene and perhaps change the course of events.  I can’t tell how something might affect a friend or family member.  I can’t be in complete control.  Oh… I see… I can’t be in complete control.

The more I know, the more I tend to micro-manage.  Don’t I trust God to work things out?  Do I think He needs a break from His work, so I’ll just take on this project for Him?  Sometimes God allows that “filter” over my life’s windows to be raised and lets me have a brief glance at the full scope of a particular situation or event.  Sometimes He permits me to plow right into something and take control and make a huge mess.  I’ve learned some of my hardest lessons in these times.  Then again, knowing that if that “filter” over my life’s windows were to be raised, the brightness and the blurs and the indistinguishable shapes would be more than my eyes could bear, He is gracious enough to keep that shade pulled down.  He is merciful enough to allow me shadow-like glimpses of things that are taking place behind the scenes of my own life.  Thank you, God, for showing me the beauty of the shadows.

Now we see only a dim likeness of things.  It is as if we were seeing them in a mirror.  But someday we will see clearly.  We will see face to face.  What I know now is not complete.  But someday I will know completely, just as God knows me completely.  I Corinthians 13:12 (NIRV)

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