|Photo by Shanda Sargent|
Between our sidewalk and driveway, stands one of my favorite things, a weeping cherry tree. Each new spring she blesses us with an enchanting array of pink and white blossoms. When the wind whisks through her branches, the loosely attached buds create a seemingly endless snow of petals. Late spring, she offers another gift. FRUIT. Her branches fill with bright red cherries that are picked, pitted, and fashioned into Grandma's sour cherry pie. The summertime gift she offers is a hideaway for my children. They love to climb into her strong, twisted trunk and escape behind her waterfall of branches. Her secret cove is the perfect place to get lost in a book on a warm summer day. These are all splendid gifts to be sure, but the most valuable thing I've ever received from Treasure Tree is not in her beauty, her fruit, or her hideout, but in the lesson of her dead branches.
A few springs ago, we stood beneath Treasure Tree to view her abundance of cherry clusters. As we stood in admiration, we were shocked to see several dead branches intertwined among so much life. I got to thinking about us. We aren't unlike Treasure Tree ourselves. We all have "dead branches." We all have parts of our lives that are broken and lifeless. ALL OF US. The dilemma that we fall into is that because we are broken, we don't believe that God can, will, or wants to work in and through our lives. It's tragic for us to believe we are unusable because we are weak, inadequate, and flawed. When we are smothered by this lie, the gifts we offer become inhibited. Treasure Tree was bursting with gifts in spite of her dead branches. Why do our dead branches debilitate us like they do? I think the issue is not solely about dead branches, but also about God's love.
DO WE REALLY AND TRULY- DEEP WITHIN THE SOUL OF WHO WE ARE- BELIEVE THAT GOD LOVES US NO MATTER WHAT?
Can God really love me when He sees the lifelessness that seeps into the cracks of my secret places? Can His love wash over me and free me from my failures so they do not hinder the ministry of His gifts in my life? The gravity of my own dead branches has whispered lies into my depths for far too long. Worrying that I have rendered myself useless for His Kingdom has done nothing but bog me down under a blanket of shame that chokes the fruit He wants to produce. Treasure Tree did not cease to offer gifts, because dead branches were woven in and around her. Eventually, we clipped and pruned her lifeless branches so she could offer even more gifts: more beautiful blossom snows, more fruit, and more healthy branches for a hideaway cove. Knowing that I have a trusted Gardener, I need to embrace His complete love for me. I need to surrender fully to His clipping and pruning in my life, all the while, still bearing gifts. Instead of a blanket of shame, I need to rest under the blanket of His "no matter what I've done or ever will do" love. Only then, can the full capacity of my offerings bless others in spite of my dead branches, and that is the true treasure from this TreasureTree, indeed.
What areas of brokenness in your life have been used for good?
Shanda Sargent is a wife to Matt, and a homeschooling mom of four. She is deeply moved by honesty, respects humility, appreciates love, knows failure, is reassembled by grace, indebted to mercy, and possesses a grateful heart. She blogs transparently about life, faith, and being human at The Upside Down Pastor's Wife. You can also follow her on Twitter.
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