Story: Eyes on Where You’re Going

May 21, 2023

Acts 1:6-14
John 17:1-11

I was a little sad when I realized this week that, because of our Sunday School recognition time, I wouldn’t be telling a story. I’m told that the young people and the people who’ve been young people quite a long time – you know, those young people – appreciate those stories. So I’m sorry that there’s no story today.

Once upon a time there was a young ‘apapane who was struggling with flying.

So, OK, I wasn’t sorry about there not being a story for very long.

This young ‘apapane’s problem was not, in fact, flying. He had mastered all the tricky business of holding his wings just so, and moving them down just so, and moving them back up just so, so that he moved forward through the air without diving or climbing or veering off to the left or slanting off to the right. Straight and level – it was so pretty to watch.

It was also, to some extent, the problem. Straight and level works just fine when you’re above the treetops or there’s short trees or bushes or grasses beneath you. When you’re in the trees, though, straight and level is a recipe for straight into a painful encounter with a tree branch.

He could turn just fine, and go up and down. Somewhere along the line, however, someone told him to fix his eyes right ahead, and not to look to either side. “Keep your eyes on where you’re going,” they said, and that’s what he did. It was kind of an accomplishment, actually, because an ‘apapane’s eyes are on the sides of the head, so they’re always looking all around. But he learned to focus, and he kept his focus, and it worked just fine until he whacked a wing on a cluster of leaves to one side, or smacked his feet against blossoms just below, or clocked his head against a tree branch that was just out of the tiny circle where he’d been looking.

He struggled with flying, and it was a painful struggle.

One evening as he was nursing a headache his grandmother asked him what he thought he was doing. “I’m keeping my eyes on what’s ahead of me,” he said.

“Then why do you keep flying into things?” she asked.

“Because they’re off to one side,” he said.

I will spare you the long lecture she gave him about the need to pay attention to more than what’s just ahead of you. Although maybe I shouldn’t – because you and I, we have to pay attention to more than just what’s right in front of us, too, don’t we? There’s the things that are coming from one side or the other. If we keep our eyes on our footsteps we’ll bonk our heads on what’s above. If we think only about what’s just in front of us, how can we ever be ready for what’s coming farther along?

The long lecture from his grandmother stung, I admit. But not as much as his head and his wings and his feet hurt from all those collisions. He learned to look ahead, and to the side, and up and down, and beyond.

by Eric Anderson

Watch the Recorded Story

This story was told from a copy of the text above, so the usual warnings about differences due to memory don’t apply. Instead, there are differences because there are differences.

Photo of two ‘apapane by Eric Anderson.