Unless You Die

Today’s a bit unique. I can’t explain why this came to me, but it seems a good allegory. Do you ever struggle to let go? Who are you letting control your life, God or fear?

A tree just outside our house was struck by lightning this evening. It was a majestic tree. I loved to watch the tree blossom each spring. As I gazed at the tree, half strewn across the lawn, I began to wonder what type of stories that tree might have within its layers. Here is it’s “story”. 

If I could tell you a story, one for every year, the shelves in the library would be full. Some stories would be filled with laughter; like the one in which the boy and his sister spent nearly the whole year by my side, sledding, building snow forts, biking, and tossing that old football up and down the luscious grass before me. There are tales with unfortunate sequences, a mother longing for her son’s understanding, bridges broken and nearly impossible to recover. Yet, even in these dark, unread stories, I could point you to the hope that shone in her eyes. Or remind you of the hugs that happened that dreary, December night. 

The flowers came and went, my leaves died, but after a winter of restoration, they returned unfailing every spring. Hope. That’s what I like to call myself, one who points others to Jesus. Under me I long that animals can find shelter from rain and people shelter from the scorching sun. The joy that comes when I share a quiet afternoon with a young boy chasing his dreams through his latest series of books is something that can’t be beat. I’m the shelter. I listen when you’re alone. My oak leaves contain secrets that I will never tell. 

For years, I’ve watched you grow. Not just you, but all who seek refuge here. My glory has not always been so great for I too was once a weak sapling. But by God’s mercy, he sent the rain. My roots sank deep into rich soils. There I hid your secrets. I had such a lovely time with you and all who entertained me in decades gone by. Now I’m no longer a towering beauty on your lawn. I can’t be a refuge when the sun’s too hot, but I hope that maybe, just maybe, as you poured your heart out and wept in the loss, you heard God’s whisper as his fingers toyed with my leaves. As you dreamed your millions of dreams, I hope you noticed the intricate patterns and shapes carved by my maker. While you laid below my bows, gazing at the stars, I don’t doubt you noticed the song twinkling above. The one God sings to you and me as we grew. It’s soft and ever so sweet. 

Now that I’m gone, don’t forget God’s goodness. Don’t forget the awe of his majesty. I was here for a time, but now he will reflect his glory in numerous ways I can’t begin to predict. I’ve enjoyed my time planted here in this small town, but now I hope to move on and touch others. Maybe I’ll be the frame that holds a family together. My wood may be chopped to give people warmth in these brutal winters. Maybe people will continue to laugh and cry around the new oak table. Sometimes, you have to die to what you think is good for you to reach everyone God has for you to reach. I always thought this spot on the westward hill was mine forever. I cherished every moment as you should as well, but when God moves you forward, don’t hesitate. Often it hurts, and sometimes, it takes a strike of lightning to catch our attention, but he’ll work it for good.

Psalm 19:1 (ESV)

1 The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

John 12:24-25 (ESV)

24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 

Romans 8:28 (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.