The last time we hiked the Juniper Creek Trail in the panhandle I did very well. Lucas was camping with us for the first time in 16 years and I was happy to show off my new ability to keep a decent pace without tripping and falling.
The path was narrow and covered with the roots of the trees that sheltered it. I had to keep my eyes on the ground to keep from tripping on one or turning an ankle. I wore my pink camping cap with the visor pulled low to block not only the sun but the glare of the clear, blue, noonday sky. You never knew when a ray would filter through the tree canopy and these eyes just cannot take it any longer, even in winter.
I was determined not to slow the guys down and motored along at a pretty good clip. All of a sudden I ran headlong into a low tree limb. Whack! I hit it so hard I nearly fell down. When you can see well and your eyes can handle the sunlight, you look up occasionally, so the guys assumed I would see a limb a good four inches in diameter, and I would have if I had been looking at something besides my feet!
No damage. Evidently I am as hard-headed as some people accuse, and the swelling knot on my forehead was high enough above my eye not to threaten it either. I didn’t even bruise, which is amazing considering that it still hurt a week later.
Sometimes we get too focused on one area and forget the rest. The Pharisees had that problem. “You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel,” Jesus told them in Matt 23:34. They were so focused on the little parts of the Law that they overlooked the bigger parts. Some of them were the same ones who refused to put Judas’s flung-back money in the Temple treasury because it was “blood money,” but had no trouble seeking false witnesses against Jesus and manipulating the Roman government to murder him for them (Matt 27:6). Single-minded focus can warp your vision in ways you would never have believed possible.
Sometimes we focus too hard on keeping the rules and forget to show mercy and kindness. That doesn’t mean keeping the rules is wrong. If I had tripped over a root in the path, I might have been badly hurt, even a bone broken, but because I was only careful in one area, I made a misstep in another, and the same is true of anyone who fails to keep their eyes open to everything around them.
How do we treat our neighbors? Do we use the excuse that since they are unbelievers we don’t need to help them? How do we greet visitors? Do only those in good standing with another congregation get the handshakes and invitations to Sunday dinner? How do we act during the week? Are we careful to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s on Sunday, then forget “the weightier matters of the Law, justice and mercy and faith” (Matt 23:23), in our dealings with others the rest of the week?
Be sure to watch where you are going when you travel the road as a follower of Christ. Sometimes the path is treacherous with roots and rocks. But don’t get so caught up with your footing that you forget to watch your head—and your heart!
Oh that my ways were established to observe your statutes! Then shall I not be put to shame, when I have respect unto all your commandments, Psalm 119:5,6.