The Tale of the Crooked Tree

The Gardener set aside his chisel and hammer and inspected the small notch he had made in the cleft of the rock.

It was perfect.

He brushed away the rock chips and then gently placed the delicate spruce seed, less than a millimeter in size, inside the nook that He had specifically fashioned.  While the Gardener had planted the other members of this spruce seed’s family along the creek bed below, where they would have fertile soil and underground streams to sink their roots into, His plan for this one seed was different.

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The Gardener had chosen a distinct, unique place for this simple seed to sprout and grow for a special, specific purpose that was yet to be revealed many years into the future.

Season after season passed as the other seeds sprouted and grew, while hidden in a hollow in the face of a vertical cliff, the single seed lay sheltered on its bed of rock.

Then, one morning as the winter snow began to melt and trickle down the cliff face, a shaft of light pierced that cool, dark place, and one word was whispered.

“Now!”

The seed awakened from its dormant sleep.  Fed by the light of life and watered with droplets of melting snow that trickled into the specially designed crevice, the seed began to grow.  Delicate roots, wispy and fine, crept along the cool rock until they found a crack in the crevice.  There they took hold and anchored the seed by gripping tightly to the stone.

The stem chased after the light, reaching forward and upward until its nose protruded from the small opening.  There a gentle breeze tugged at the seedling but its roots held it steady.  It lifted fragile arms upward to the light, as if to acknowledge its need for the provisions that would only be supplied by the radiant sun.

Little by little, the fragile tree grew.  With its roots sheltered, anchored and watered in the cleft of the rock, the seedling gained strength as each day it was fed by the sun…

Never too much and never too little…

But just enough food to supply the energy that it needed to grow for that day.

As the tree gazed ever upward, seeking to draw nearer to the sun, its trunk did not grow straight and true.  Instead, it was bent and kinked.

It was a crooked tree.

One day, when the Gardener came to tend the crooked tree, the tree asked this question –

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Crooked tree

“Why is my trunk crooked and not straight like those other trees?”

The Gardener chiseled away at the crevice in the cliff face to widen the space that the tree trunk would require as it expanded in width.  The ringing of his hammer and chisel echoed through the valley.  Finally, he paused and gazed with the crooked tree at the towering spruce sentinels across the creek bed.  Majestic in size and straight in shape, their green branches danced lightly in the gentle breeze.

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Towering trees growing straight along river

Then the Gardener said, “To all of you I have given life and a purpose.  Those trees provide homes for the chattering squirrels and the summer birds, shelter for the doe and her fawn, and the many other woodland animals that need protection from the summer’s heat and the cold of winter.”

“But to you, my crooked tree, I have a special purpose, unlike any that those trees across the stream will be able to accomplish.  Wait for My plan to be unveiled.  The time is soon.  Until then, be strong and take heart.  Trust Me.  Wait for My perfect time.”

The warm summer cooled into the radiant colors of autumn and then the shortened days filled with crisp winter winds and dazzling, white snow arrived.  Through the long, dark nights the crooked tree wondered when the Gardener’s plan would be revealed…

How long would it take?

As he waited he remembered the words of promise the Gardener had spoken…

Be strong.  Take heart.  Trust Me.  Wait.

As the sun began to rise higher in the sky, its rays sent warmth to the earth below that turned the frozen river bed into a raging torrent as the winter snow melted and fled.  Soon, spring arrived and the forests came alive with the symphony of new life as songbirds built their nests and squirrels chattered to their neighbors.  Speckled fawns followed silently behind their graceful mothers, and coyote pups nipped and yipped as they chased each other’s tails.

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Melting snow in spring

Still the crooked tree waited.

Then, one summer evening, the air around the crooked tree was alive with purpose.  He glanced at the creek below and there saw a small person stepping from stone to stone across the trickling stream.  A hush descended upon the valley.  The wind calmed.  The birds paused in their songs of praise.  The squirrels ceased their endless chattering.

The crooked tree was not surprised when the Gardener appeared at his side.

“This is the moment, my beloved crooked tree.  This is the moment for which you were created.”

On the stream bed, the girl stopped at a large bolder and sat down.  Her shoulders shook as the sound of her soft crying filled the air.

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Large bolder in creek

Then, she lifted her head to the sun, and stretched her arms upward.

“Father, I know that You have called me to this path, but it is not easy.  Yet, as my Good Shepherd You lead me along right trails.  While some of those paths are in green pastures and by quiet waters,  others go through dark valleys in which I cannot see the end nor the twists and turns that I might be facing.  There are also times when the trails You lead me on are ones on which You have prepared a table before for me in the presence of my enemies who encircle me and want to devour me.”

“Lord, this is such a time when it seems that I am facing dark valleys and I can hear the creeping footsteps of my enemies as they prowl – lurking in the shadows – just waiting for me to stumble and fall.”

“Oh, God, hear the prayer of my heart.  Hear my cry for help.  To do Your will, to bring glory to Your name is my heart’s desire, but right now this valley is so dark and deep I cannot see.”

At this the girl dropped to her knees and wept.

After some time had passed, she once again raised her face upward, and the crooked tree saw that it was upon him that her gaze landed.  He watched tears, glittering like diamonds in the rays of the sun, trailed down her face.

She stood and kept looking up.  The branches of the mighty trees behind her began to wave in the gentle breeze that filled the valley, but her focus never wavered off the crooked tree.

Moments passed and he saw her gaze turn towards the sun.

“That’s it, isn’t Father?  If You, in Your perfect plan, can provide everything that this crooked tree needs to grow in a place that defies gravity…

In a place where it seems to be drinking water from the rock…

In a place where it is continually bombarded and not sheltered from the strong winds, the dry heat, the cold winter…

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In Exodus 17:1 – 7 God made water gush from a rock

“Surely, You CAN provide for my every need that occurs in this trial, no matter how big and insurmountable or basic, yet impossible it may seem.  Surely, You WILL provide for every need out of the riches of Your glory, for that is what You have said, and You are forever faithful to do fulfill Your promises.”

She raised her hands to the sky.

“Father, thank-you for this crooked tree.  Thank-you for the lesson that You have taught me by its presence here this day.  Your plan is perfect and that just as You uphold this tree, You will uphold me.  Just as You renew this crooked tree’s strength day by day to withstand the daily pull of gravity’s pressure, You will strengthen me and renew me day by day.”

“Help me to wait for You, to be strong and take heart…to trust You.”

“Embolden my heart with Your strength.  Help me to remember that Your grace is sufficient and that Your strength is made perfect in our weakness; therefore, like Paul, I can delight in weakness, in insults, in hardship, in persecution, in difficulty, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“Father, the road ahead will not be easy.  Much will be required, but You will provide all that is needed to fulfill Your plan.  Therefore, I should not fear, for You are with me.  I should not be dismayed for You are my God.  You will be my strength and my help.  Just as, each and every day, You provide for, uphold, strengthen and renew this crooked tree, please provide for, uphold, strengthen and renew me – each and every day.   May Your will be done.  Amen.”

And with those words, the crooked tree saw her gaze once more lock on his crooked trunk.

And she smiled.

As she left that place, returning the way she had come, the forest awakened from its silent interlude.  The birds began to sing songs of praise.  The squirrels commenced with their chattering.

And the crooked tree lifted its gaze upwards in a song of praise as the cool breeze of the evening tickled the edges of his branches.

For he had learned that as the Gardener upheld, strengthened and renewed His creation each and every day, the Gardener would also provide for every need that was faced as His perfect plan was unfolded and accomplished…

Even in the life of a crooked tree.

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