Proximal Blindness

Yesterday afternoon I was grilling salmon steaks on the back deck watching my daughters play in the backyard while sipping a decaf coffee. It was dreamy.

I got to thinking about something that is really simple, but missable. Most simple things are very, very missable I'm learning.

As I watched my daughters I had this thought...

"They are growing up so fast and yet I haven't noticed the subtle maturation process. We've been in Lowell for 5.5 years and even though my daughters we 1, 3 and 5 when we came, they look the same to me today that I remember them being then."

As I was thinking about their lives, I was struck by how much they've developed without my thoughtful notice. Right under my nose they've grown by the feet, acquired an ever increasing vocabulary, and learned interpersonal skills whereby they can interact with life around them without my monitoring, mediating and meddling.

And yet, I don't acknowledge their extensive development because I've been so intertwined with it. I barely recognize the advancement.

I then looked around at the trees in my yard. I noticed a similar perspective that I was trapped in unknowingly. To me, the trees like identical to what they were when we first arrived to that property. Almost like they hadn't grown a bit in the time we'd lived on 121 Parnell Ave. they "seemed" mysteriously stunted in their growth.

And yet, as I thought back and remember the size of branches and the height of certain trees, I began to expand my entrapped consciousness and widen my gaze of reality. The fact is that all the trees in my yard had grown tremendously since we first stepped out of our car to inhabit our 1 acre piece of heaven on earth. Signs of this were replete, but the most defined sign was the way the ash tree had wrapped itself around the rope that held our tire swing. The branch had literally grown around the rope in its unstoppable maturation indicating that, indeed, the tree was taller, wider and thicker than when we first arrived on this plot of land. Pine trees were 4 to 5 ft. taller. Bushes that I'd planted in my landscaping were filling in and taking shape. My yard had a life of its own and was growing whether I acknowledged it or not.

It didn't take much of a leap of logic to then consider the reality of people's growth around me and how I was blinded to the unbelievable steps they had taken even though I was largely unaware due to my close proximity. Like children, you don't notice they are growing unless you leave them (like grandparents do who live at a great distance) and then return every several months or years. The progress is staggering when your proximity is infrequent. That is why reunions are filled with conversation of growth initially: "You've grown like a weed." "You've grown into a fine young women since I last saw you." "You could probably take your dad in a wrestling match!" For the first several minutes, growth is acknowledged and affirmed.

I think I tend to not give enough affirmation for growth in people spiritually due to what I call "Proximal Blindness". They are wider, taller, thicker and stronger...but I'm still dissatisfied with the lack of growth. Instead of encouraging the steps of growth, I'm discouraging the person with the appearance of apparent stagnation....that is more my issue with "unperceived maturation" due to "proximal blindness". I'm discouraged (unnecessarily) and they are discouraged (unfortunately).

This trend leads people to not enjoy being around people that are close to them since it only leads to demands and "failure reminders", and to move toward relationships that keep their distance and, as such, recognize and value "subtle successes".

Subtle successes, when unrecognized and unvalued, lead to disillusionment. Which I think is why teens have a tendency to gravitate to people outside their nuclear family. Which is why people tend to lose faith in their friendships. Which is why church can often times add insult to injury.

Unless and until we learn to celebrate growth in people no matter how quickened or quick it may appear, we will only plunge people into places of paralysis. But when we stop to "hear the music" and "smell the roses"...tracing the steps of life that are replete with signs of life, and then taking time to champion those victories along the way, we will be surprised at all that his happening right under our noses that we are largely unaware of. God is "gooder" than we could imagine and people are "gooder" than we have been duped to believe.

My daughters have grown so much, my yard has grown so much, our church has grown so much, my friends have grown so much, and--this is the hardest one to recognize due to proximal blindness--I have grown so much.

I just don't want my closeness to be the very poison that prevents me from growing closer to the burgeoning life that is constantly growing all around me.

Life is alive...can you see it?


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