To Do: Look Up and Rejoice!

Last Tuesday was radiant. I was driving home from a meeting with the items of my to-do list loudly shouting in my head—you know, the list of things that you need to get done that day; the list that can seem never ending?

As a task-oriented person, I usually enjoy the ‘to-do’ list and the satisfaction of completed tasks, but on this particular day, there were just too many items competing for my immediate attention. One child was due for a vaccination, another had to buy some complicated resources for a school project, we were low on milk, and our dog was due some tablets that she was not going to like. There were also several action items I needed to add to my list after a meeting I had just completed. I also had our Bible Study coming over for dinner, and my husband and I were due to look over the study together beforehand.

There were so many moving parts, and my brain was moving faster and faster, trying to determine which task I was going to tackle first, weighing up the pros and cons of each.

We were just taking some time out to stare up at the trees in awe and wonder.

As I drove down my street, I was surprised to see a bunch of what looked like pre-schoolers—kids aged around 3 to 4—lying on the ground, looking up at a tree on the nature strip outside my house. I very carefully pulled into my driveway, turned my car off and jumped out, blurting out ‘is everything ok?’ rather loudly.

Their teacher, an attractive young lady in practical play-clothes and a large hat, slowly stood up and smiled at me. ‘We were just taking some time out to stare up at the trees in awe and wonder. I hope that’s ok?’

I looked around at the children lying there. They had faces of concentration but also relaxation as they looked up at the tree. Some had splodges of paint on their hands and faces so there must have been a painting activity earlier in the day. They were really enjoying this different angle of looking at a tree. One adorable little boy, daubed with remnants of breakfast on his face, even had the tip of his tongue sticking out the side of his mouth as he looked; he was completely oblivious to me. There were about ten of them, all looking at this random tree that I pass multiple times a day as I go in and out of my house, and most of them were smiling.

My to-do-list was promptly forgotten.

‘Do you mind if I join you?’ I asked the teacher, who smiled and nodded at me.

I lay down on my nature strip—something I have never done before—and looked up. The leaves were blowing ever so gently in the wind. I could not believe how many different greens there could be on one tree—some of them were nearly yellow. The bark was grey but also brown and gnarled over time with knots and bumps and scratches. We could see the tops of the roots that supported the strong trunk by burrowing deep into the ground. The tips of the leaves were never still as they were so light, they danced in the sunlight. The branches reached outwards as well as upwards: strong, unified, but also separate.

Everyone knows that trees are green and brown and from 3-years-old; that’s how we draw them. However, there is much more detail to the reality than that stylised depiction.

The teacher asked the kids, ‘what do you see?’ They rattled off different colours, shapes, and some insects around the trunk. One observant child pointed out the sunlight and sky that was peeping through the gaps in the leaves. Another shouted out ‘an elephant!’ which set us all off laughing.

While I had been running around going over my list, I had been missing out on this simply stunning object that was part of the landscape.

It was quite breathtaking, and I appreciated the moment of rest. While I had been running around going over my list, I had been missing out on this simply stunning object that was part of the landscape. That moment of rest was wonderful, and I was reminded of the verse where Jesus says that “unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 18:3, CSB)

Of course, Jesus here is talking about how we see ourselves and our own standing—the comparison is with the puffed-up presumption of the disciples who are arguing about who is the greatest. But there is something of the same contrast between grownups who are too important and busy to notice God’s creation and children who have nothing better to do than gaze up at a tree.

These 4-year-olds realised that there was something fascinating to see, so they were taking the time to enjoy it and appreciate it. Good on them! After a while, some of the kids got restless and their preschool teacher suggested they all gently get up and keep moving together to their destination, the park down the road.

I sat up smiling and waved them off on their journey. As they shuffled off, I lay back down and thanked God for the intricacy of nature and repented for my busy heart that was too constrained by a list to appreciate the beauty right in front of me.

Enjoy the tree! There is awe and wonder all around us in God’s beautiful creation, but sometimes we let it blend into the landscape of the every day. The gospel of grace means I am not defined by the number of items on my to-do list, nor am I defined by the items that I successfully cross off. I’m loved as a precious child of Jesus who comes to Him with nothing in my hands.

My prayer for us all today is from Romans 15:13:

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you believe so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.