Its mid February 2014 and my neighbor’s Christmas tree still remains at the curb. The sanitation workers do a drive by every Tuesday. In the morning I see it at the curb next to the garbage can, and when I return in the evening, the garbage can is either empty or moved next to the garage, but the tree remains. Today, my neighbor stood the tree straight up in the can. I suppose he wanted to make certain it was seen. However, when I arrived home, I found that the trash can was gone, but the tree was laying on its side at the curb. I don’t know the protocol for tree removal (I’m an artificial girl), but I do know that the strategy being implemented is not working on my neighbor’s behalf. Its ignored. Its isolated. Its stagnant. Have you ever done everything you knew to get God’s attention all to feel like he’s blessing everyone but you? Have you been waiting for your change to come? Waiting for him to drive through your neighborhood? When did your relevance end? When did you become out dated? Out of season? Have you ever felt like a Christmas tree left at the curb at Valentine’s Day?
I have. I’ve experienced so much pressure that if I’m confronted with one more situation, one more bulb added to my branches, I would break. Other times, the storms of life are so powerful, I’m uncertain of my survival. I’ve felt used by others. They’ve sought habitation in me for their issues of life. Assumed safety in me, and the anointing God has placed upon me – all to feel paralyzed when they’ve repaired their wings and taken flight with not so much as a goodbye or much obliged. I’ve felt barren in seasons when everyone around me was producing fruit. I’ve felt withered, enduring the heat of the enemy through time and circumstance when others experienced coolness and refreshing from God. Yes, I am all too familiar with feeling like a tree during Valentine’s Day. Specifically, the Christmas tree still lying at the curb in mid February. Where’s the love?
No matter the condition however, or the timing, there is is one thing that we can take solace in as trees. We have a trunk! Yes we are built strong! And connected to our trunk, we have roots (See previous blog:”Check the Root”). We must be certain that we are well grounded in practices that will bring life and sustain us. And even when life as we’d hope is not working, through our connection to our foundation, we can withstand the elements. Each time we survive something, are liberated from something, and find victory through something, similarly to a tree a ring should emerge. If you’ve ever seen a tree trunk that has been cut, there are growth rings visible to the naked eye. A study of the rings can detect the climate, the history and each ring represents a year. What does our life in Christ say about us? How have we weathered the storms? Do we look different year after year? Are we growing? Maturing? Developing? Rings mark the passage of time. What evidence do we have to demonstrate our growth as believers?
Our growth should not be limited to how long we’ve been a member of a religious community, or how many ministries we’ve served on, or how many times we’ve read the Bible in one year. Our evidence must reflect our faith, and our ability to endure despite the desire to stop and our concern to ensure that someone else persists as well. After leaving church on this past Sunday, an exit off the interstate was blocked and there were police cars, with lights swirling everywhere. I later learned that a young man took his life in that area. My heart broke for him, and those connected to him, even if he never felt it. I wondered, “Was he unable to connect to his trunk?” “Was he unable to identify another tree?” “When the strength in him was no longer perceived accessible, was there no where else he could seek shelter?”
Yes, I’ve felt like a tree; and I’ve appreciated the trees God has placed in my life – those that were visible and tangible to me. Those that bent down like a weeping willow to the depths of where I was in my trial. Those that were strong like an oak when I was weak. Those that provided the beauty as that of a magnolia tree when I’ve felt at my ugliest. Those that shared the sweetness of a fig tree when I was bitter from circumstance. Whether I am providing tree maintenance through pruning on someone else, or experiencing it for myself, I’m grateful that we can turn to the tree of life, Jesus the Christ to meet all our needs.
During this abbreviated space in February where people conjure up love as artificial as my Christmas tree, be encouraged. You are not the Christmas tree left by the curb. You are loved. Your beauty is not ornamental. You are stunning both internally and externally. God is not acting in the form of the sanitation worker, passing you by because you didn’t follow the rules for being blessed. While you wait, continue to exude your gifts. Some children enjoy something for the day of Christmas, and either break it or ignore it after a day. That is not the kind of relationship you have with God or the one he desires you to have with others. You are built to last. In the words of “O Christmas Tree”:
“Not only green when summer’s here, but also when its cold and drear. O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, thy leaves are so unchanging. Oh Christmas tree, O Christmas tree, such pleasure do you bring me.”
Continue to bring God glory in the house, a special room, decorated or bare, or even at the curb. You are not forgotten. You are loved.