When I drove through my neighborhood last week I was in a bit of shock. The entire area looked like a hurricane had come through, trees just splintered apart everywhere, but this wasn’t an act of nature. It was done deliberately, and it made my heart sick. You see, I love trees. It probably comes from the fact that I basically grew up in one. I had a best friend who lived two doors down from me, and we spent every minute together, and often in that tree. So I’ve got a bit of a soft spot in my heart for trees.
And there are tons beautiful trees in our neighborhood. They are stunning. (the one pictured on my home screen is right from my back porch!) But apparently the time had come for them to be trimmed down. The trees get tangled in the power/telephone/cable/internet wires, since they all those wires are above ground here. So every few years, a crew of guys with machetes goes around cutting the trees way back so they don’t have to worry about it again for several more years. Therefore, they don’t get lightly trimmed. They get hacked apart. They are cut quickly and unmethodically, and it looks like a tree massacre. Shards of branches are sticking up in every direction, some trees have one entire side cut off of them, leaving it off kilter. One roundish tree was cut right through the middle, like a hairdresser with a razor to the middle of ones head.
This isn’t pruning. This isn’t trimming back so that it will grow back more beautiful, or healthier. Some might not be able to grow back at all, some will always remain slanted and bent in a new direction. Some look sad and pathetic. Some look like they belong in a creepy horror movie scene. But sadly, something has to be done, because if the trees aren’t cut, then we’ll lose power. It happens often here, with a strong storm or high winds, the branches end up falling on the power lines. And I happen to like having power; I sort of like having lights at night, I appreciate the internet, and I really really enjoy having a fan to cool me off while I sleep.
But it got me thinking.
What if one of those trees represented my life? I’m just growing, giving the world oxygen. Doin’ my tree thang. Being the best tree that I know how to be. But, what if there was one part of me that needed to be cut? Maybe cut back because I was a danger to myself. Or others. What if, I had something called sin. Depending on what my sin was, I’d decide how to handle it. Confront it. Ignore it. Hide it. Mask it. Lie about it. Deny it.
If I am able to step out of denial, that means I can probably confront it. And if it’s a more serious issue, a habitual sin, an ongoing sin, a sin of the flesh, I might have to do something more drastic.
Like hack it off with a machete.
Maybe it’s only a few small branches. Maybe it’s the whole freakin’ left side of me. I might end up looking like sideways, bent, crooked, tree. And there is no way to make it sound or look pretty, because, it isn’t. I might remain in my hacked up state, but would I be better off since I got rid of the sin in my life?
I’d like to say yes. I really really would.
But I don’t like it. I don’t particularly know what to do with the verse that says, “and if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.”
Um, are you kidding me? Really Jesus?
And I feel like He’s saying, uh, yes, daughter of mine. That sin in your life, that sin that you guard, protect, hide; it is poison. You are drinking from your shiny glass of poison and it’s killing you. It is keeping you from Me, it’s tainting your view of reality, it’s hurting your family and your marriage, and it most certainly is a big deal. And so when Jesus tells me He thinks it’s better to gouge my sin out, hack it off, quickly and immediately before it kills me, I think He’s serious. I think He knows I won’t look as beautiful without my eye (even if I cover it with a cute eye patch) or my branches.
But, He gently reminds me, He is more concerned about what my heart looks like.
And so while I still feel sad about the state of these trees, I feel like I am seeing them in a different way. It had to be done. Until we get power lines under the ground, the cutting had to be done. So maybe it’s the same with the way that God sees me; it had to be done. The sin had to be cut out. It is as simple as that. Not easy, heck no, but simple. The incredible part is, He doesn’t see the hacked up parts, the broken off parts, the bent or crooked me.
He sees my heart.
He sees my new and beautiful, spotless heart. My heart that has found it’s way back to Him. My heart that can truthfully see it’s faults, issues, and sins. My heart that has confessed, repented, and even had do some hacking along the way to make sure nothing will grow back. Nothing.
Now I will live with my scar, my shards sticking out, and move on. Knowing, that even though I’m not exactly as beautiful or majestic as I once was, I am alive. And I will remain alive, next to Jesus, for the rest of eternity. And that seems a little more important than the embarrassment of being hacked apart. Of admitting my sin, of coming face to face with it and saying enough! I want to chose the bold, hard, scary path of confronting and hacking my sin to death, because it brings life. I chose life, from a tenderhearted Father who gives it freely.