When we remodeled our house, a stately 50-foot walnut tree stood in the way of our blueprint. It was perfect: straight, tall, and beautiful. We did everything to keep it, but in the end, the grand plan dictated that it had to be cut down.
The tree became a distinctive mantel for our home. When we moved from that house, the mantel came with us. But then it sat lifeless for months in the corner of our garage because it wouldn’t fit over the new fireplace. A majestic tree, fallen. And waiting. But a master craftsman had a plan in the works.
The last few posts have explored how God can make everything new. Unbound by time, He reaches back to our ugly past and redeems it, gives us the Spirit to grow our faith during the treading of today, and bestows a future better than one we would make for ourselves. All of this involves both God and us.
But we must decide to partner with God. Only then can all be made new.
I learned a few years ago that a damaged physical heart can’t renew itself. The spiritual one can’t either. It needs a partner. And when your spiritual heart is hurting, you feel that need deeply. In the throes of understanding my diagnosis, I clung desperately to God’s promise: I will make everything new.
I came to understand that this becoming-new business wasn’t something I could accomplish on my own. And it was never meant to be.
On my worst days, God’s Spirit became my partner, granting me fruits that fed my soul. The presence was strange and strong. Love, joy, peace, and patience became unexpected but permanent houseguests. Throughout those early days of my illness, the Spirit was busy crafting a new life with a new heart. It was a divine intervention that was more critical than all the medical care I received.
But it took my consent.
I remember from Business Law in college that partnerships are formed by mutual agreement between the parties. No one can be forced into a partnership with someone else.
So it is with God. He chose the Church as his bride, his partner for all time. Then we choose to be part of that collection of Christians. And a life-changing relationship is formed.
This alliance has been forming since the beginning of time. Our good God has been pursuing man since Eden. He didn’t want Heaven without us, so He has been asking generations of us to choose Him, to join Him as a partner.
At some point in everyone’s life, that request becomes personal. Like the mantel in our garage, He is waiting. He won’t force Himself or His newness on us. Love demands that free will choice.
A few years after the beautiful walnut mantle was banished to the garage, it finally found the collaboration it was longing for. From my journal a few days before my surgery in Cleveland:
Our friend called today and asked if he and his wife could drop off a surprise. I was excited because he is an artist and craftsman. I had no idea what he was delivering. Turned out he had made a unique table for us. The table included, along with wood from our fallen walnut tree/mantel, a rare, rose-marbled wood from a boxelder tree.
The tree was blocking his drainage system, so he cut it down. After noticing red sawdust coming from his equipment, he first checked to see if he had all of his fingers. Then he realized the tree had unusual coloring at the center. He learned after consulting an arborist that an irritant entered the tree at one point and caused the beautiful red color to form.
Paired with the wood from our mantel, the boxelder wood made a stunning table that will be passed down for generations, I’m sure. Very honored with this special gift!
But the words he spoke about it were even more precious. Looking at me, he said, “This boxelder tree reminded me of you. At first blush, we think how unfortunate it is that the tree is damaged. But then we quickly realize that the disease only made the wood more beautiful.”
These are humbling, treasured words from a man who has endured trials throughout his life and has his own incredible redemptive story.
Being part of the heirloom we were given is an unlikely future for a boxelder tree. The wood of a boxelder tree is extremely soft and has no commercial value. They are often considered a type of weed.
But to the craftsman, that lowly tree held potential, and worth. Not everyone would have seen it as something special, especially with the disease having entered the tree. Alone, it was too soft, too unstable to be of use. It needed to be partnered with something stronger and longer-lasting, like the walnut wood.
We are the soft, scarred boxelder tree. Diseases of this world have entered every one of us. We are all rendered imperfect by life itself. But when we choose to be paired with the sturdy Spirit of Christ, we are made perfect and beautiful to our Creator. We become something cherished, something unexpected, something more than we are.
We become completely new in the eyes of the Master Craftsman.