The Gnarled Tree

gnarledtreeIt’s been an interesting past few days to say the least. Two themes over the past week have kept reverberating: Trees, love shown through obedience, and brokenness. I guess that makes three themes. But they have, in various ways, intertwined with each other as tends to be the case when God is showing me things.

This morning’s devotional reading in the first half of John 15 intertwined them yet again. We as human beings, are unable to show God we love Him unless we choose to show it through our obedience to the precepts and commands of His Word. This is reiterated in Psalm 1. The person that meditates and delights in God’s Word is likened to a tree by a stream, whose leaves never wither and whose fruit is always present. Christ says in John 15, that His Words must remain in us, that apart from Him, we can’t do a single meaningful thing for Eternity, but that if we choose to abide in Him, and His Words in us, that we will bear much fruit.

Contrast this now to a thought that was presented Sunday morning by my pastor. Actually it was first presented by Pastor Rick Warren in a TV interview with Piers Morgan this past week. Now let me say from the beginning that I am not a fan of many things Rick has said over the years. My initial and continued impression of his best seller, “Purpose Driven Life” is one of bothered concern. Yes there are some good teachings in that book, but yes there are also some very narcissistic thoughts in there too. At times the book is far too “me-centered” for me to be comfortable with it. So I’m not a raving fan by any means. But he did say something in an interview about how he and his wife are handling the suicide death of their son, that caught my attention. “I’d like to think that even a broken tree can bear fruit”. This was voiced due to his son having brought people to Christ and helping many others while he himself struggled with mental illness before his death.

God has spoken to me in the past about the fact that He uses broken vessels. The banner I printed out in 2007 is still on my monitor to this day, and it says, “The Water of Life flows through broken vessels”. It is only in our brokenness that the Holy Spirit can have the freedom He needs to live through us to the world around us. A whole person tends to be a prideful person and one who feels they can do anything they put their mind to. While they may indeed be resourceful and capable, they can get in the way of God’s purposes for them simply by thinking they have it all together. A broken person doesn’t make such lofty aspirations and is in a more humble position to allow the Holy Spirit free reign in their life.

Many of us are like the broken trees. We have spent time in God’s Word, we have meditated on His ways, but life has not been kind and branches have been broken. But for this author at least, imagine the surprise when looking back over those difficult times and still seeing fruit for the Kingdom being produced!!! God uses us in the difficult times, in the black times, and in those times when we expect to look back and see nothing but struggle and poor judgement. Such hindsight always fills me with wonder and amazement.

But look at the ancient gnarled tree. Look at it’s trunk and the large thick branches. What do you see? Do you see huge gapping scars where other branches were once attached? Do you see growth angles that seem unnatural because of suffering through too many wind storms? But look again. Look at it’s twisted, mishapen form again. What it is about that old gnarled tree that makes it so beautiful? Is it not precisely those things that happened to it over the years? Does it not speak of perseverance, of strength, of trials and triumphs? That tree has lived through much. It has suffered through storms and those storms have ripped off branches and caused it to seemingly bend out of shape. But here it stands, thick, strong, and still providing shade to children who play at it’s feet in the summertime.

May I grow to be like that tree. Maybe my shape is twisted, a few branches lost leaving gaping scars. But look at the storms God has brought me through. . . and my life isn’t over yet. There is more of life yet to be lived. But no matter what life throws at me, may I always be found with my tap root down deep into God’s Word, sustaining me through the winds and trials of life, that I may stand strong in the face of adversity.

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