[It’s leaves are always green]
As I glance out our window, the same thing always catches my eye: a brown Evergreen tree. Obviously, this tree has no life left in it anymore, and if it were standing in our yard, it would have been chopped down long ago! However, there it stands on the other side of the fence–a constant vision of lifelessness.
Evergreens shouldn’t turn brown. The only reason an Evergreen changes colour is because something has gotten the best of it–be it lack of water, wind damage, insects or disease.
It’s said that Winter can be quite hard on recently transplanted Evergreens due to their reduced root system. This makes sense. Perhaps we should be more supportive and welcoming to newcomers and those in need. Everyone needs a strong root system.
“Keep on loving each other as brothers and sisters. Remember to welcome strangers, because some who have done this have welcomed angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:1-2 (NCV)
“Suppose someone has enough to live and sees a brother or sister in need, but does not help. Then God’s love is not living in that person.” –1 John 3:17(NCV)
Don’t Give Up
While brown Evergreens may appear lifeless, one columnist writes, “Don’t give up on brown evergreens just yet. They may look fatally dramatic; however, if the branch and growing bud is still alive they have a chance to grow.” [source: The Homeowners Column ]
While I’d have no problem throwing a brown tree into the chipper, God knows better. Thankfully, God gives all of us a chance to grow. He’s very patient, unlike myself, who still has a thing or two to learn about patience. (2 Peter 3:9)
God Doesn’t Cut Us Down
Aren’t we glad that He doesn’t cut us down when we’re looking unsightly? Thankfully, even when we turn away from Him, He comes looking for us.
He Even Shelters Us
Instead He kindly corrects us as He did when He caused a tree to grow up over Jonah, sheltering him from the sweltering heat of the Sun.
In that moment God was mercifully teaching Jonah right from wrong, kindly showing him that He can shelter anyone He so chooses, even those who have gone astray. (Even the wicked.)
Jonah was in this boat himself (or rather a large fish), but he wasn’t seeing that he was doing the very same thing that Nineveh had done.
“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” –Matthew 5:44-45
When God caused the tree to wither, Jonah became angry. He was then questioned, by God, about his anger, just as any good father would. He was also informed that Nineveh simply didn’t know right from wrong.
It’s so easy to see things in the people around us, but for whatever reason we have a difficult time recognizing our own mistakes and wrong doing (More on this in Pride Goes Before the Free Fall)
Therefore, we should have mercy on those who are in rough shape because God shows us that same mercy. We’re just as guilty of doing things that God hates. We’re also just as susceptible to life’s storms.
Over the Winter months, Evergreens can lose more water than they can replace. However, as followers of Christ, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is our constant source of living water. We should never grow thirsty because we have God’s constant help, and can tap into every source of encouragement that we’ve been provided. We should also accept and assist those who are weaker in the faith. ( Romans 14:1)
What strikes me the most about the brown tree in our neighbors yard is that it’s the only tree along the fence line that has turned brown. All the other trees planted along side it are living up to their name.
That’s just it, isn’t it? As followers of Christ we have a name to live up to. Are we representing Jesus well? Are we thriving? Do our roots go deep? When something difficult comes our way will we weather that storm, or will we quickly wither?
Standing by our Brothers and Sisters
Last, but not least, do we stand by our brothers and sisters, even when they’re worse for the wear? (This one is definitely speaking to my heart.)
Trees like the one in our neighbors yard, that don’t have anyone caring for them, don’t thrive. One day, one way or another, that brown tree will either be blown down or chopped down.
This not only speaks to my heart of how we must strive to thrive, but it also speaks to me about those in our own circle of influence. Are we willing to reach out and be that nourishment? Of course, those who need that refreshment must also be willing to take the help (Sometimes more patience, prayer, belief, and trust in God is required on our part.)
If we don’t willingly accept God’s care we too will quickly succumb to whatever abrasive breeze blows our way. Thankfully, we can turn to God for everything we need.
“But the person who trusts in the Lord will be blessed. The Lord will show him that He can be trusted. He will be strong, like a tree planted near water that sends its roots by a stream. It is not afraid when the days are hot; its leaves are always green. It does not worry in a year when no rain comes; it always produces fruit. –Jeremiah 17:7-8