The other night I woke with pain in my shoulders after cutting down a 12m high birch tree, growing against the fence, very close to my neighbours’ house, earlier that day. Having ‘self-seeded’, it had grown amongst some roses. I’d left it there, thinking it would be difficult to remove at the time, and anyway it might screen off my neighbours’ conservatory as it grew. In a well-watered garden, fed by fertilizer meant for the roses, it soon grew to obscure my neighbours’ conservatory and house. I enjoyed the benefit it provided, without thinking of the consequences of its continued growth into maturity.
Then recently, while working at the other end of my garden, I looked back at my house and noticed the tree had grown considerably. It was now nearly four stories high, and so close to my neighbours’ house that the leaves and branches were touching windows on the two upper floors. On closer inspection, I saw the lower trunk was thick. The paper bark was stripping off to reveal the deep crevices of the mature trunk, which was beginning to push the fence post out of its vertical position and toward the neighbours’ conservatory. There was evidence that my gracious neighbour had attempted to remove some branches to avoid damage to his conservatory roof and first and second floor windows. With some help, I cut the tree down at the earliest opportunity.
As I lay in bed, the Lord began to speak to me, using the tree as a metaphor. He said the tree was like some ungodly aspects of my life. There were things which seemed harmless at first, little distractions, bringing worldly comforts and benefits. I’d allowed these behaviours and attitudes to grow unchecked, but after time they’d become traits. On deeper reflection, I realised they were prideful, judgemental, selfish, and damaging to my relationship with Him and others.
He gently showed me how my careless attitude toward this tree reflected my own selfish attitudes. I’d just ‘gone along with’, or allowed, certain things. If I’d thought and prayed about them, I would easily have seen these things weren’t right, fair or godly. But I’d continued to allow them, because they gave me comfort, pleasure, or benefit. I hadn’t realised, or cared about, how they might have been affecting others around me, or how they were dishonouring to God. Now there was evidence of damage in me, and others, whom I’d carelessly neglected.
Could you have a neglected corner somewhere, where untended attitudes or behaviours grow, and risk bringing corruption and destruction?
Prayer: Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Amen.(Psalm 139: 23-24).
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