There’s a giant sycamore tree by the creek. My hands are feet from touching when I try to reach around its pale bark in some sort of earthen embrace. What captivates me most about this tree isn’t its size; I’m most captivated by the angle at which the giant grows. It leans at close to a 45-degree slant, deeply rooted in the earth and dropping yellow leaves far into the creek.
The tree is along the path we take when we hike behind the house, and it’s a reminder of several spiritual truths in my life:
Be Careful about Judging What You Don’t Understand
The creek is lined with dozens of straight-standing sycamores. They are gallant and honorable. Their bark shines silver in the autumn sunshine, and they bear the glory of their Maker. Interestingly, not one of these trees is as large as the slanting sycamore.
One by one, we’ve watched as the tall, straight trees topple to the ground in violent wind storms and crash, uprooted, in microbursts that rip through the valley. Somehow, the slanting giant remains firmly rooted, bearing fruit in season, year after year.
I’d be quick to label this tree less worthy than its straight counterparts. But time has proven that this tree is deeply rooted. This reminds me to be careful not to judge what I might not fully understand. What’s visible on the outside doesn’t often tell the whole story.
In the same way, man looks at outward appearances, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). We’re wise to remember these words.
Everyone’s Journey to God is Different
Something about trees reaching toward the sky reminds me of seeking the Lord. This tree reminds me that we’re all on a journey toward knowing God more, and no one fully arrives until we see him face to face. While there are pivotal moments along the way – black and white moments of decision – no two paths look exactly the same.
The friend who has very little conception of God is at a different place along the journey. We’re called to walk with one another, encouraging one another to draw closer. And just as no two trees in the forest are exactly the same, no two paths are ever identical.
Adversity Produces Strength
I’m not sure what caused the giant sycamore to lean as it does, but it’s safe to say that this tree faced adversity that caused it to grow sideways. It’s often the most difficult trials of life that strengthen our character most. Hard times hold the potential to shape us into the image of our Creator.
The financial struggles, the seasons of illness, the lost jobs, and the shattered dreams hurt. They also strengthen us and conform us to the image of the One who endured hardship for us.
The Call to be Set Apart is a Gift
We’ve often walked the trail past the sycamore and noticed other hikers standing in its shade, marveling at its slant, and sitting at its base. This tree stands out among the other trees of the forest. It is set apart.
Sometimes the call to be set apart in our lives feels too difficult. Saying no to things others deem acceptable and standing firm in a shifting culture isn’t easy. But the call to be set apart isn’t meant to be a burden. It’s meant to be a gift.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss writes: “I learned early on that to be ‘set apart’ is not a punishment; it is not an attempt on God’s part to deprive us or to condemn us to a cheerless, joyless lifestyle. It is a priceless privilege – it is a call to belong, to be cherished, to enter into an intimate love relationship with God Himself, much as a groom declares his intent to set his bride apart from all other women to be his beloved wife; to fit into the grand, eternal plan of our redeeming God for this universe; to experience the exquisite joys and purposes for which we were created; to be freed from all that destroys our true happiness.”
And so, as the tree slants hard, I remind myself that the pressure points of life are often the greatest gifts of all.
Reference: Holiness, The Heart God Purifies, Moody Publishers, p. 33-34.
Thanks to Arabah Joy, Kelly Balarie, and Missional Woman for sharing this post!