A few weeks back I was walking across the quad in my own world thinking about my day when something caught my eye. I wasn’t sure what it was at first, but looking over the quad I knew something was out of place. I looked hard at the scenery trying to find what was out of place and finally when it was just a few feet in front of me I saw it. A fir tree planted right out front of the library that I had never seen before. The dirt around it looked untouched by shovels and it seemed to have been growing for a few years but I had never seen it before in my life. My memory told me that this tree did not belong here and try as I might I couldn’t see it in any of my memories. I went around to friends who had been on campus longer than myself, pointing out this impossible tree and every one of them looked at me like I was insane. They told me that the tree was planted a few years back and that it used to get decorated around the holiday season.
Every day for a week I walked past that tree trying to make sense of its sudden appearance in my perception and still it would not fit in my mind that this tree had been here longer than me. I almost felt like it was some kind of inside joke; that this unassuming tree was planted just to mess with people and everyone was in on it but me. However that wasn’t the case and I slowly accepted that I had just never noticed it. What bothered me the most though was that I walked within ten feet of that tree every single day and for the first two months of the semester I failed to notice it at all. How could I not see a tree that plainly visible?
It got me thinking though, what else have I failed to see or failed to acknowledge? What are the things I witness every single day that just get filtered out and become invisible? The answer is a lot. Every single day our senses receive millions of stimuli that all need processing and if you factor in how much our brains are already managing it really is not a surprise that things get filtered out. However considering that I missed seeing a whole tree that I walked past every day it makes me wonder just what else I have not seen, especially things that are not daily occurrences. How often have I missed out something important or ignored someone because I simply was not paying attention?
And then it hit me. I suddenly knew what noticing that tree was meant to do in me. Our lives are so full of busy moments, with homework and friends and finding jobs, wondering what we are going to do after we graduate, questioning if that certain someone feels the same way about us, if we have time to eat lunch, which class we can skip so that essay will get done, if we have time to go home this weekend or how much sleep we will have time for. With all of this buzzing around in our heads, and all the smells, sights, sounds and sensations that we are exposed to constantly it becomes incredibly difficult to notice the invisible things that God sends our way. Those opportunities to share and experience His love for us, those messages and signs that tell us where to go and when, even those moments when He tries to remind us that He is present. God is present in all aspects of our lives and with everything that gets caught up in our minds it becomes very easy to forget that He loves us and is guiding us constantly as long as we listen and look for Him.
God doesn’t break the sky open to tell us where to go or what to do. He doesn’t send a giant pillar of flame to guide us in the night, and there is no booming voice that says we did a good job. What He does do is send us these little invisible things that we miss when we are not paying attention. His hand is subtle and it can be difficult to discern even if we think we’re looking in the right direction. This is why it is so important to spend time in prayer and to keep our hearts and minds open to the Lord. Messages from God are quiet and often we become so caught up in other things we miss them entirely. But if we take the time to slow ourselves and enjoy His presence we can begin to see things we never notice, like people who could be our next best friend or an opportunity to do good. Maybe you’ll even notice a tree that you walk past every single day and never realized it was there.
By Joseph Laurendeau