My airplane landed in Cincinnati, Ohio around noon. I had been invited to teach in a local church-based bible school, so my suitcases and my mind were packed with the materials and information that would be needed to accomplish my mission. I am often a person on a mission: focused upon the task that is set before me, geared up for the primary purpose, and not easily derailed or side tracked by non-essentials. A young couple, who had been appointed to serve as my hosts, greeted me. I extended an initial, albeit cursory, salutation to the man and woman who would be my family-away-from-family for the following five days. They drove me to a small house that the church had purchased to provide temporary lodging for visitors.
Once inside, I took an initial, albeit cursory, look around the two bedrooms, kitchen, and living room that would be my home-away-from-home for the following five days. I quickly organized myself for the tasks that lie ahead. I hung up my clothing, plugged in my computer, and phoned home to say that I had safely arrived. By the time I finished settling in, darkness had fallen; hence, I had taken no notice of the property or landscaping on the outside of the house.
The next morning I awakened as the sun was dawning. I went to the front door and looked out. The scene was typical of pre-spring – still barren, brown, and flowerless. The color green was seldom to be found except of an evergreen tree growing here and there. Immediately to the right of the front sidewalk was some species of tree that stood about nine or ten feet high. As expected, no leaves hung on the branches. All that could be noted from an initial cursory glance were bark-covered branches stretching skyward without flora to cover their nakedness.
The days of my stay in Cincinnati unfolded, as did my knowledge of the young couple, my detailed observation of the house, and my awareness of the barren tree just outside the front door. Things are never what they appear when we only take the time to see the obvious, only look at the superficial, and only inspect the surface. The couple assigned to be my hosts were devoted parents, serious students of the scriptures, and faithful laborers in their local church. He was a computer technician, whose analytical mind was not only well-suited to his vocation but also perfectly fitted to sound reasoning and apologetics, aiding him in his theological training. She was a stay-at-home mom (a quickly vanishing group in our nation) who had poured her whole heart and life into family. Her stories were filled with home and hearth rather than now a day’s narratives of fast-lane and hectic-pace corporate America. The more hours I spent with them, the more I shared life – their life – life that could not be perceived without deliberate observation.
Intentional examination of the house revealed that someone had given careful attention to detail: eye-pleasing color coordination, well-planned interior decorating, and need-meeting amenities. But, the object that most arrested my attention was the tree in the yard. As I stood gazing out the front door at the brown tree, I noted small reddish-brown buds at the end of each branch. They were very small and only slightly red. They almost blended into the lifeless-looking condition of the tree. However, there they were for anyone observant and alert enough to see. They were trying to tell a story and attempting to proclaim a narrative. This tree was telling me that it had a past and was promised a future. This tree was declaring to me that what appeared to be lifeless was really life yet to be released in due season. This tree was making a promise to anyone who would investigate. What promise? Life can be discovered everywhere if you take the time to notice!
I smiled as I walked away from the front door of the house. How exciting it was to find life. I determined in my heart never to be too quick to discount something or someone who, upon an initial cursory glance, may appear to be dormant, lifeless, or even just unknown to me. The promise of new life is everywhere. Those who take the time to be observant will have the joy of experiencing life.