This past Sunday, a girlfriend of mine and I went hiking together in the mountains in Tennessee. We followed a 5.2 mile path into the woods where the only sounds were those of the gurgling river that our trail followed and the birds and squirrels that were busy in the treetops. It was so peaceful! The day was glorious – sunny skies and very favorable temperatures. We enjoyed the many lizards that we saw scurrying across the rocks, some butterflies that fluttered by and even a baby snake that was traveling the same path.
As we finished the trip to our destination, we drank in the sights and sounds. We had arrived at the site of a beautiful waterfall which flowed into an emerald green pool of water, lined by large rocks. Tall trees towered above us. A cool breeze was blowing, birds and cicadas were singing and huge dragonflies zoomed around us. No man-made cathedral could have been more magnificent!
After a while, we took a shady seat on a fallen tree near the water and began to eat our lunches. As I finished my lunch, I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit urging me to look at the place where I was sitting. I looked down at the tree trunk that served as my seat, but He re-directed my attention quickly. I looked behind me and to the side of me. At first I didn’t notice anything remarkable, but then He directed my gaze to the tree whose shade we enjoyed.
I wish I had taken a picture of the actual tree so that you could appreciate just how incredible this tree really was. Instead of coming straight up out of the ground as you would expect a tree to do, this tree’s trunk ran for about six feet almost parallel to the ground. After that, it twisted and turned into the more upright stance that you would expect a tree to have. From there, the twisted branches reached out in every direction, their leaves shading the bank and the edges of the pool of water.
“Wow,” I thought, “what must this tree have been through in order to make it grow in such a way?”
Suddenly, I knew that that was His point in drawing my attention to the tree in the first place. He began to “speak” to me, more in images than in words, although the meaning was clear.
I saw my life as the trunk of a tree. It started out straight, but then something terrible happened to me in childhood. Twist. I made bad choices as a teenager. Twist. Unexpected tragedy struck. Twist. I continued to make poor choices as a young adult. Twist.
That wasn’t the end of my story, though. As an adult, I entered counseling. Growth. I went back to church and began learning about a God who hadn’t given up on me and still wanted to be in relationship with me. Growth. I gave my life to Christ. Growth. I was able to share my story with people who needed some hope for their own lives. Growth.
He reminded me that my life still has twists in it, even as a Christ follower. The twists of life don’t have to drag me down, though, because they don’t stop my growth – they’re part of my growth. That idea amazed me.
He then finished by asking me to look again at the twisted tree whose shade I enjoyed. I realized that the tree was really beautiful, not in spite of its twisting trunk, but because of it. The twisting growth pattern made it unique among all the trees.
My own twisting growth pattern makes me unique as well, and I trust that He is making me beautiful in the process. All glory to Him!