Occasionally, we drive through Apison on the way to a basketball game here or there and every time we do, I’m reminded of the Tornado that destroyed so many homes and lives not too long ago. One of the things that amazes me is the number of trees that are still alive but have clearly experienced significant trauma. Some have empty spaces where part of it’s branches once bloomed. Some have been completely stripped of all vegetation and rather than standing straight and tall, they are bowed over like they are carrying the weight of the world.
The incredible thing to see are those trees that are bending but not breaking and they are starting to sprout again.
It’s clear that they were so rooted that even with the force of a tornado, they still stood firm. I know a lot of people that are this like those trees…bending but not breaking.
For the first part of the “Rooted” series, we looked at one of the oldest trees in Chattanooga. It’s a Willow Oak tree off of Bonny Oakes Road. It’s a magnificent tree but along the way, the trunk split into 2 main sections. As with most large trees that have a split trunk, a strong wind can easily bring them both down. If you look closely, caretakers have attached cable between the 2 trunks to help support each other. You can’t see this from a distance but if you are close, you’ll find this think line connecting the 2 trunks and making them 1 again.
As much as we want our lives to look like the perfectly shaped tree out in the middle of the field for all to gaze at, most of us resemble either the trees in Apison or the Willow Oak in Chattanooga. We are bending (and sometimes cracking) but we are not breaking.
Somewhere along the way, we changed the gospel to something like this…If you will follow Jesus, everything will work out! Your problems will fade away…
It doesn’t take long for someone who believed that gospel to realize it simply wasn’t true…or worse that God did that for some people but just not them.
Isaiah, when prophesying about Jesus said this…
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Isaiah 53:3
Jesus a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. It seems Jesus would bend and not break, too.
So what does this look like for an average, run of the mill, Jesus follower? Are we meant to suffer? To be miserable? To grieve non-stop? I don’t think so. I don’t believe Jesus walked this earth with a frown on His face. I believed He laughed, smiled, joked with His friends and experienced genuine joy even in the midst of sadness.
So what does it look like to look like Jesus? Maybe we are bent and cracked but life still flows within us. Maybe we need a cable attached to someone else to give us strength. If you are going to follow our understanding of the purpose of our lives according to scripture to be that we love God and we love each other, you will grieve at times.
There are times you will show love, honor and respect only to have it ignored or have them respond with guile and hate. To love while being hated is a terribly hurtful place to be but that is the place where Jesus walked. He even told us we would be hated if we follow Him.
This weekend, I want to explore this reality of bending but not breaking and how to live a life of joy when we might assume sadness. We too are meant to bend and we are meant to have real life coursing through our veins.
I hope you’ll join us and I hope you’ll bring a friend!