No, I’m not a tree hugger! But I do have somewhat of a special relationship with a tree near my house. It’s not because it’s a beautiful shade tree or a rare fruit tree. There’s nothing majestic about this tree. As a matter of fact, it’s quite pitiful looking.
A couple of years ago, the road leading to our neighborhood was repaved and spruced up. They widened part of the narrow road and added some median areas where they did some landscaping. They planted some small trees about 10 feet tall in the middle of these medians. Occasionally, one of these little trees will fall prey to a spring storm, a clumsy panel truck passing by or a drunk teenager. A few months ago I noticed one of the trees was leaning out into the lane of traffic. Apparently the trunk had split, leaving the top of the tree leaning precariously to one side. I passed this tree for months, wondering if anyone would ever try and fix it, or replace it with a new tree.
Finally, I had had enough. One Saturday afternoon, I grabbed my duct tape from the garage and made my way to the ailing sapling. My idea was to upright the top of the tree and tape it back to the trunk so it could heal and begin growing straight. To my surprise, the tree was not very willing to cooperate. I tugged and squeezed and pushed and grunted, all the while dodging the cars as they sped by. I managed to straighten it enough with one hand as I applied the duct tape with the other. I wrapped several yards of tape, hoping to secure the struggling tree. When I finished, I crossed the road and looked back to get a better view. It looked more like a bow and arrow than it did a tree, but I felt like I managed to give it one last chance for survival.
Spring arrived shortly after and, low and behold, leaves began to bud. For the past few months I’ve driven or walked past that tree and thought “I saved that tree!” When my kids are in town, I drive them past my tree and remind them that I saved that tree.
This past week I noticed a road crew traveling up and down the road, pulling out the dead trees and replacing them with new healthy trees. I wondered what would happen to my tree.
This morning as I prayer walked down the road, I realized that my tree made the cut. It was still standing, bowed in the middle, but none-the-less, it was still there. And that’s when it hit me. I’m just like that tree! I’m a tree planted in the middle of the road. Sometimes I feel stuck while everyone is passing me by. I feel neglected and ignored. I get wounded by careless people around me. And then someone comes along and seeks to restore me. Yet, I’m not always willing to straighten back up. I’ve become complacent in my wounds. I don’t care that I’m in a very dangerous spot and could be wiped out at any moment. It hurts to stand tall again. But finally I give into my Healer and allow him to wrap me with His healing bandages.
If you were to step back and take a look at me, you would see that I’m not completely whole. I’m bent and bowed and disfigured. I’m bandaged and I don’t look like all the beautiful trees around me. But I’m standing and I’m healing. All I needed was for someone who cared enough to help me back up.
Hebrew 3:12-14 says “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.” Let’s be encouragers to one another, helping each of us who are wounded to keep living out our faith in spite of our difficult circumstances.
Someday, if we persevere, if we delight in the law of the Lord, living lives of faith and obedience, we will find we are no longer trees in the middle of the road. Instead we will be like the tree in Psalm 1:3, “He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.”