The Case of the Rising Tree

Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)

…let us throw off everything that hinders…

I Peter 5:6 (NIV)

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand,

that He may lift you up in due time.


It was April. Saturday was the kind of day that led me to confidently box up the gloves and scarves and charge outside to mow the lawn. Saturday night the winds began and by Sunday that mown lawn was blanketed with snow.

As I opened the garage door to go to church that morning I was greeted by our pine tree lying prostrate on the driveway. I was able to back my car out, but Tony’s car was trapped inside the garage by the tree.

After Sunday school Tony arrived for church with a big smile on his face, the scent of a Christmas tree on his clothing, and a whispered "You won’t believe this!" on his lips.

This was his story: After having tried unsuccessfully to push the tree to the side of the driveway, he had begun sawing off limbs. Branch by branch he had dismembered the tree until only the largest limb remained attached to the tree trunk. Thinking he had come this far and that it would have to be done eventually, he had proceeded to attack that last and largest limb with his handsaw. When the cut had been completed an amazing and unexpected thing happened: the tree trunk gradually began to rise and resume its upright position! And there it was when we returned home--strangely pruned, but upright.

We were doing Beth Moore’s Breaking Free study at that time and in the video we watched the following Monday Beth talked about the maimed life. Referring to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:30 that if your right hand offends you, cut it off, she read to us from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, June 29: "There are many things that are perfectly legitimate, but if you are going to concentrate on God you cannot do them. Your right hand is one of the best things you have, but, says Jesus, if it hinders you in following His precepts, cut it off."

I thought about our pine tree. Its heavy limbs were good--perfectly legitimate--but they were keeping it from assuming its upright position. As soon as they were cut off, though, it could stand.

One of the clearest messages the Lord ever communicated to me had to do with my longing for Him. He pointed out that even though I would get hungry and thirsty for Him, I would then spoil my appetite with other things. (Isn’t it so like God to use words from my mom-vocabulary to make His point?) It wasn’t necessarily junk food that I was "eating"—although there was some of that: TV shows and magazines and such. But I was spoiling my appetite with big, healthy meals, too. I was involved in a Bible study that required a large investment of time, I listened to Christian radio programs and sermon tapes and read Christian books and prepared for ministries I had committed to. Although all of these were good and healthy, my longing for Jesus wasn’t being satisfied with them.

Usually we only go on a diet when we get fed up. The Holy Spirit saw to it that I got fed up with the way I had been living my Christian life. He saw to it that I wanted Jesus more than any of the trappings of religion I had been used to. Were any of those things bad? No, of course not. As Oswald Chambers said, "There are many things that are perfectly legitimate, but if you are going to concentrate on God you cannot do them."

I was not a brand new believer at that time. (It’s always harder for us "mature" believers to change our ways, I think.) It took some humility to put my Christian lifestyle down and come to Him like a child going to her first day of kindergarten. God rewarded me, though, with the same reward He promised Abraham in Genesis 15:1: "I am...your exceedingly great reward." He proved to be such an exceedingly great reward that for three months I read no books or magazines, watched no TV or movies, and listened to no radio or tapes. I just wasn’t hungry for that stuff. I read the Bible and listened to praise music and knew a satisfaction unknown to me throughout my entire Christian life.

Many would have probably considered that my life looked as strange as our oddly pruned pine tree. Being willing to look strange is, I find, one of the requisites of the maimed life. But if the choice is between remaining intact and cast down and being maimed and lifted up, it is not a hard choice to make.

There is always the danger in sharing a story like this that someone who hears it will assume God is calling everyone to the same "maiming." I believe that is seldom the case. He knows each of us intimately and knows what is in each of our lives that is keeping us down. He just wants each of us to humble ourselves and ask Him what that is, so that He, in due time, can lift us up.