I originally wrote this several years ago, but I needed to hear it again today and thought perhaps someone else did too.
As I look out my bedroom window, I see the broken tree that once was a source of irritation now as a source of life.
It was struck by lightning several years before we moved here and was slowly dying inside as the years passed. We didn’t know this until the inside of the tree revealed the truth about its history and trauma. One afternoon while eating lunch, my husband and I heard a loud boom as the top of the massive tree tumbled into the barn that we had hoped to someday turn into a mother-in-law suite. The tree crashed through the top floor of the barn and destroyed most of the furnishings we had there. The tree that looked so healthy on the outside was nothing but a hollowed, decaying mess on the inside. The insurance surveyor showed us a dark line around the middle of the trunk where the lightning once struck. Everything above that line was broken and lifeless, only we didn’t know it until the heavy winds proved it to be true.
The leftover stump of this tree is about 15 feet high. Finances didn’t allow us to actually remove the stump at the time, and we were assured that all of the dangerous parts fell off in the crash. So each time I look out my window at our beautiful wooded backyard, I see this strange, curved, broken, dead tree stump in the midst of all of the other healthy trees and become irritated that we never had the ability to just remove this old, worthless tree.
Two years after that happened we made a discovery that has changed my whole perspective of that tree. In the middle of suburban Georgia with a major road only half a mile from our home, a couple of Barred Owls have decided to use our old tree as the spot to raise their new family. The male and a female, both of whom we have only seen once or twice a year prior to this, have found a safe place to keep their eggs, a place high enough up that predators can’t reach it and man can’t explore it. These massive, beautiful birds now live in our backyard among the squirrels, chipmunks and other birds. A few days ago, two new little birds emerged from that old stump and new life began where once was only death. Each evening we watch as the little ones poke their head from the top of that tree and look around their new world as they wait for Mom and Dad to deliver the food they will need until they are strong enough to get it on their own. They are fuzzy and have no feathers, but over the next few weeks they will not look very different from the majestic parents who have cared for them up to this point.
I feel like that broken tree sometimes. I have had times where God has used me and I felt alive and useful and that somehow I could give back to the One who has given so much to me. There have been times when I could bless others with the shade from my branches and the rest in my counsel and wisdom for others. But then there are broken moments when I feel as useless as that old tree. How can I give when the life has been sucked out of me? How can I bless others financially when every bill collector threatens to cut off our very existence? How can I share the message of Life when things are decaying around me?
Perhaps you feel like that tree too. Has lightning struck you in places where you doubt you will ever see life again? Maybe the lightning came from broken relationships, or broken dreams. Maybe yours was all at once through a divorce, or miscarriage or diagnosis, or maybe you have been dying a little at a time and have no idea how to reverse this trend. You are very much like that old tree if you feel useless in your calling; that God is either finished using you or has no intention to ever start. Do you want desperately to see fruits in your life but know that fruit can’t grow from a dead place so you have given up trying? Do you struggle to keep things looking green and healthy on the outside but know that it’s only a matter of time before the winds come and the world sees that everything is just empty inside? Don’t despair. The Giver of Life can use you and restore you to a place where life springs forth and fruits come in abundance.
With our old tree, there was a time of waiting. It took time for the tree to be weathered away and just the right fit for our family of owls to nest there. It took the sun and the cold and the wind and the storms over the last few years to make that trunk ready for the life to come out it. So it is with our lives. In the midst of it all, there are winds we must face that make us stronger, and storms that make us know who our Redeemer truly is. And sometimes worse than the storms is the time of calmness in between the trials. It is these times that the tree must have felt ready to burst forth in life, but for whatever reason it was not the right timing. Oh how difficult those times of waiting are in our lives!
Before the mother owl was able to build her nest in that old trunk, she must have had a number of things to remove first in order to make room for her eggs. Fallen leaves may have made a soft nest for her little ones, but old branches and other trash had to go before she knew that it was the right place to start her family. Sometimes it hurts when God removes those painful, distracting parts of our lives, but it is always, ultimately to prepare a heart that’s soft and compassionate, and a place for the Holy Spirit to dwell.
So if you are broken and feeling empty and not sure if there is any life left in you, rest in the assurance that God can use any heart that is fully surrendered to Him. Ask Him to heal the place where the lightning struck and where the death began to creep into your world. Give Him the hard, rough parts that are holding you back and let Him remove them and replace them with the foundation for fruit to grow and flourish. Surrender the broken feelings and trust that He will never deny a broken and contrite heart. The Author of Life can restore life back into your broken places when your heart finds repentance and your life is surrendered to all that He has for you.
There is life waiting to burst forth in you. How glorious this life will be when the waiting is over and your faithfulness is honored. Let nothing stand in the way of letting Him fill you with a new life in Him. What He says He will do, He will do.