Growing up, our church had the tradition of reading The Tale of Three Trees every Christmas. If you haven’t read it, you should.
I was always drawn to the 3rd tree. In the story, the 1st and 2nd trees had more material ambitions. The first tree wanted to hold beautiful treasure; the second wanted to be the strongest ship in the world. Ah, but the 3rd tree, all she wanted was to grow so tall that whenever people looked at her, they’d look up and think of God. My little girl heart wanted so badly to glorify God; to point to God in everything I did.
Sadly, in the story all three trees get axed down and thrown into lumber yards.
I seem to be finding myself sitting in the metaphorical lumberyard as well. Nothing has quite gone as planned so far, at least not in regard to how I thought I’d point to God.
As a girl, I always imagined I’d bring glory to God through singing. I didn’t have any grand aspirations of fame, or even earning an income through music, but I thought I’d always use that gift of voice for Him. A shy little girl who hated speaking in front of people, singing was a platform for me to share my heart for God. I would carefully select songs that conveyed truths I found important to share. During my teen years, God opened so many doors for me to sing at church, school, and in the community, it made sense that I’d continue to serve God in that way.
From the moment I graduated high school, went to college, and began to spread my wings, however, God seemed to frustrate all my attempts. Every time I knocked on that music door, it seemed to slam shut or creak irritatingly. Nothing seemed to work out. I was either too young or not classically trained enough or wasn’t friends with the right crowd or people dragged their feet on promises made….and so on and so on. At one point I was so humiliated by certain feedback regarding my apparent lack of expression on stage, I almost gave up singing altogether.
Then about 10 years ago I felt God tugging at my heart to go into ministry. I can still remember the exact chapter I was reading in a book and the precise spot I was sitting on my couch when I told the Lord, “Okay, I’m in.” So in tandem with being a mother, I directed the energy I had left toward women’s ministry. Zeal in my heart, fire in my soul, I set out on my journey for the Lord. Surely that was how I would bring glory to Him!
Yet a decade later I am lacking any direction.
I’ve read oodles of books by Christian women, many of them in ministry, and I am always amazed at the apparent ease with which their path guides them into teaching, preaching, writing, nonprofit ministries and so on. Two ladies in particular graduate college, decide to start up a blog and next thing they know they’re reaching tens of thousands of women through a bona fide non-profit. Another lady decides to write a book, as if it’s so easy to even get published in the first place, makes friends with a nationally known speaker, and the next thing she knows, she’s part of another nationally known women’s ministry. I can’t even find a niche in my local church while big things seem to just fall into others’ laps. It’s hard not to be left feeling a little dumbfounded or to question your calling altogether.
“Am I missing something, Lord?”
Earlier this summer I was having some much needed quiet time with the Lord, perusing through some old journals. Suddenly my heart stopped when I came across a poem I’d entirely forgotten about, written 4 years ago. Somehow it still seemed so relevant to my heart’s current condition:
The 3rd Tree
Girl of eleven wished to be that tree.
Heart pure and sweet, with a zeal for the King.
“May all I do point to you.
May I grow tall and free so they lift their eyes to you.”
Then life had its way and cut her down.
They spit, they mocked, they pushed her to the ground.
“Maybe I’m not enough.
Perhaps I heard wrong.
Maybe I’m not called.
Maybe I’m not an appointed one.”
Dreams lay dead in the lumberyard.
A broken spirit blackens her soul.
But the King so sweetly raises her head
He dries her tears and comes to make her whole .
“Don’t you know the rest of the story?” he whispers.
“Don’t you remember that tree did bring me glory?”
Still your heart, sweet child of mine
Wait on the Lord.
Still your heart, little child of grace
Let the Sovereign One sit on the throne.
You see, as our story of the Three Trees concludes, it does not end with the trees rotting in the lumber yard. The tree who dreamed of holding treasure became the manger in which Christ lays at his birth. The 2nd tree who dreams of being a strong ship becomes the fishing boat who carries Jesus and his disciples through a storm.
And as for the third tree, who lays in that lumber yard the longest, she gets put together only to have the nails of Christ’s crucifixion pounded into her. Sounds real nice, right?
Yet thereafter, every time people looked at her, beams formed into the cross, they would think of the Savior God.
I wish I could say that I have reached that beautiful ending. That I could tell you, “Aha! This is what God had planned all along and why so many things seemed like dead ends along the way.”
But I can’t.
The truth is, I’m still in the part of the story where I’m laying in the lumberyard, wondering what in the world God is thinking. Too often we only hear peoples’ stories once they can be wrapped up nicely with a pretty bow. But I think it’s important to share about the time in-between. The waiting. The uncertainty. Otherwise we’re left with a false sense of how easily everything is supposed to go.
Only God knew how badly my heart needed to hear the truths I penned in that poem all those years earlier. More than ever, when we’re in the valley, when we’re in the waiting, we need constant reminders of God’s truth. I need only to wait on the Lord and let Him sit on the throne. As for the rest? I guess that’s part of the adventure of life.
“But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.”
Psalm 13: 5