This morning, I’m sitting on my sofa, sipping on my coffee. I’m looking at my beautiful new Christmas tree, but it’s bothering me. All the ornaments are clustered toward the bottom front, some of them barely clinging to the end of strained skinny branches. There was no planning when the ornaments went up; just excited children unwrapping them from packing paper and hanging them where their short arms reach.
I waited until this morning, with them asleep, to dismantle the blob at the bottom of the tree.
I took my time, carefully removing each ornament from the bunched branches, making sure it had a secure hook and finding the empty spaces in the tree and placing it there.
I had to stand back in order to see the empty spaces, ugly clusters and the strained branches.
Empty spaces….ugly clusters…...strained branches…
It occurred to me to ask myself this question, “What would it like if I took this same careful approach with my own life?”
Do I take quiet mornings to examine my life in search of empty spaces, ugly clusters and strained branches. After rearranging the tree, I made myself another cup of hot coffee and wrote down 3 observations.
1. “Search me, oh God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lean me in the way everlasting.” Psalm 139:23-23
Just as I was searching out the empty spaces in the tree, I should ask God to search out the “empty” areas in my life. We can’t improve if we are not convicted first. Conviction comes when we create a time and space for God to examine our hearts. No--its not a hot flash of shame or a persistent tug of guilt --it is an invitation to shift our lives around; to ask God to fill us with the love and peace that follows conviction and change. Conviction is necessary if we are to be made presentable before God.
Sometimes what we perceive as anxiety, guilt, aimlessness and worry is simply a result of not asking God to search our beings. We need to take a step back from the neck breaking first-row view that we have on our lives. It may require taking a seat in the back row of our lives to glean a fresh perspective...one that gives us a bird’s eye view.
2. He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart…Ecclesiastes 3:11
I always turn the “ugly” side of the tree into the corner. You know, the wonky branches or naked branches that we didn’t notice at the tree lot. No one can see it if it’s facing the corner. Nor can they see the older, broken or tacky ornaments hanging on the sub-par branches. No one wants to stare at the one-legged Goofy Disney ornament from 2012.
Sometimes what we see as ugly, is only something that has not come “into its time.” Think about this--God meant for everything to be beautiful and He gave us that longing as well. We seek to make our children dress beautifully, we decorate our homes beautifully, we seek beautiful vacations…..this thirst for beauty comes from God.
The problem is that ugly things exist. It is a part of the broken world we live in. There are loved ones dying of cancer, unsalvageable marriages, persistent drug addictions and wayward children who never find their way home. We want to shove them away, hide them in a corner or light them up in flames--but we can’t.
We must try to see the beauty in the most difficult of circumstances. Just like sometimes we tilt our heads and squint to try to squeeze out the most beauty from a particular view--we have to try to trust that God turns beauty out of ashes.
And when we come up dry and empty-handed, we must ask God to give us an eternal perspective. We trust that God will make ALL THINGS beautiful in it’s time.
3. Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up. Proverb 12:25
I can relate to the straining branch bent with the weight of several heavy ornaments. I forget that there are other branches around me to bear the burden. Maybe you are like me--you think your problem is yours to bear or you don’t want to weigh others down with your heartache so you carry it alone.
As I redistribute the ornaments this morning, I am thankful for the stronger branches that can hold the heavier ornaments. I think of friends and family who are strong and who have helped me with encouragement and support.
I think we know what happens when we leave a heavy ornament on a straining branch--either the ornament falls and shatters or the worst--the branch breaks. If you are reading this, know that you are surrounded by a cluster of people who love you and want to see you succeed. If you don’t have that support, then cling to the promise of Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
What is the church if not a body of branches clinging to the Vine and surrounding one another with love and support?
As a child, we were not allowed to celebrate Christmas with trees and decorations. It was seen as a distraction from Christ.
Truthfully, I am amazed at the beauty of Christmas with all of it’s symbolism and rich stories and songs and traditions. Even something as simple as a tree points to Jesus if we take the time and space to see Him.
I hope this is a reminder to you to keep looking for Jesus.
In the small and the big….
In the beautiful and the not so beautiful…..
In the empty spaces, ugly clusters and strained branches.
Merry Christmas from the HUGG Family to yours.