“They got the promotion because they are brown-nosers, not because they are good workers…”
“They seem to be the picture perfect family; if only my kids would behave like theirs…”
“I’m not even going to ask them to help. They won’t be able to do it as well as I can…”
“I don’t practice with my son like he does; I must not be a very good father…”
“My spouse and I are never that affectionate; that couple probably loves each other more than we do. What’s wrong with my marriage?”
If the trees could talk, they would ask you one important question, “My dear friend, what season are you in?”
Last week I was challenged to sit quietly for five minutes per day and to intentionally be aware of God’s creation.
As I was driving down the road on a cool, sunny February afternoon in Montgomery, AL, heading to get the best chicken salad on this side of heaven, I turned off the radio to gaze upon and appreciate nature. My attention was immediately drawn to the trees that lined a particular street. I saw a tree with no leaves. I saw a tree with dead leaves. I saw a tree with varying shades of foliage. I saw a tree that donned pretty green leaves and I saw one that was beginning to bud. I was amazed that this street was lined with trees in each of the four different seasons of their “lives.” It was perplexing, yet fascinating! As I was admiring and meditating on this phenomenon, the Lord taught me a lesson on judging people and making comparisons.
Humans have a tendency to jump to conclusions and make false assumptions about people. We have even more of a tendency to compare ourselves to others, much to our detriment.
How often have you seen someone who didn’t appear to have all of their T’s crossed or their I’s dotted and you immediately passed judgment on them?
“Shame on her for coming out of the house looking like that…”
How often have you compared your beginning with someone else’s middle?
“He is so great at this…; I will never be able to do that…”
We are in different phases of life. Just because someone is in a different phase than you doesn’t mean there is something wrong with them or that you did something wrong in life. We must be careful to avoid judging someone based on their current season. We must be careful to avoid comparing ourselves to someone else.
John Acuff (acuff.me) says, “Comparing yourself to others leads to arrogance or shame, but never happiness.”
“Arrogance tells you that you’re ahead. That you’re better than them. That you know something they don’t know or have accomplished something better than someone else. Pride then comes in like a wrecking ball.” (Acuff) Proverbs 18:16 says pride goes before destruction!
“Shame tells you that you’re behind. That you’ll never catch up. That someone else has an unfair advantage and the odds are wrongfully stacked against you. That it would be a lot easier to give up.” (Acuff)
Arrogance and shame are not a part of God’s plans for you. He has plans to prosper us and not harm us; to give us a hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11). Judging and comparing go against those plans, so we must free ourselves from that trap!
If the trees could talk, the first thing they would tell you is KNOW YOUR PURPOSE. Some trees provide food. Some trees are ornamental and aesthetically pleasing. Some trees provide privacy. Some trees provide shelter. When you understand your purpose, you will begin doing what is necessary to fulfill that purpose. Your to-do list is filled with things that help you be intentional about fulfilling your purpose. Thus, eliminating the temptation to be something for which you were not created and keeping you from wishing you were doing what someone else is doing. What is your purpose? I encourage you to do some soul searching and ask God, “Why did you create me?” When you find out, embrace it! Know your purpose.
If the trees could talk, the second thing they would tell you is TRUST THE PLACE. Some trees flourish in wet soil. Some trees flourish in cool weather. Some trees flourish in hot and humid weather. When you are put in the environment that is best for you, you can grow into the tree for which you were created. One of my husband’s favorite trees, the Southern Magnolia, does well in the southeast part of the United States. However, it would not flourish as well in Minnesota! When God plants you in a place, trust that He knows what He is doing and He knows what environment is best for you to flourish. Bloom where you are planted. There is no need to be judgmental of another’s bloom or shameful of your bloom. Appreciate your surroundings. Soak up the nutrients. Stand firm, tall, and proud. Trust the place where you have been planted.
If the trees could talk, the final thing they would tell you is BE AT PEACE. You will go through many seasons in your life many times. You will see things built and destroyed. You will feel sunshine and rain. You will experience harsh winds and gentle breezes. You will provide a playground for a small child. You will be a home for the birds that will serenade you with their song. You will provide shade for a cookout. So spread your roots. Make yourself at home. Be content with your purpose and place. Be proud of who you are and what you are becoming. Trust the process. Be at peace with where you are and the purpose you serve.
As you start to KNOW YOUR PURPOSE, TRUST THE PLACE, and BE AT PEACE, you will then KNOW YOUR SEASON. When you know your season, you are freed from the trap of judging and comparing!
An unknown author wrote this story about three trees to help bring this home.
Once upon a mountain top, three little trees stood and dreamed of what they wanted to become when they grew up. The first little tree looked up at the stars and said: “I want to hold treasure. I want to be covered with gold and filled with precious stones. I’ll be the most beautiful treasure chest in the world!” The second little tree looked out at the small stream trickling by on its way to the ocean. “I want to be traveling mighty waters and carrying powerful kings. I’ll be the strongest ship in the world! The third little tree looked down into the valley below where busy men and women worked in a busy town. I don’t want to leave the mountain top at all. I want to grow so tall that when people stop to look at me they’ll raise their eyes to heaven and think of God. I will be the tallest tree in the world.
Years passed. The rain came, the sun shone and the little trees grew tall. One day three wood cutters climbed the mountain. The first wood cutter looked at the first tree and said, “This tree is beautiful. It is perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the first tree fell. “Now I shall make a beautiful chest, I shall hold wonderful treasure!” the first tree said.
The second wood cutter looked at the second tree and said, “This tree is strong. It’s perfect for me.” With a swoop of his shining ax, the second tree fell. “Now I shall sail mighty waters!” thought the second tree. “I shall be a strong ship for mighty kings!”
The third tree felt her heart sink when the last wood cutter looked her way. She stood straight and tall and pointed bravely to heaven. But the wood cutter never even looked up. “Any kind of tree will do for me.” He muttered. With a swoop of his shining ax, the third tree fell.
The first tree rejoiced when the wood cutter brought her to a carpenter’s shop. But the carpenter fashioned the tree into a feed box for animals. The once beautiful tree was not covered with gold, or treasure. She was coated with saw dust and filled with hay for hungry farm animals. The second tree smiled when the wood cutter took her to a shipyard, but no mighty sailing ship was made that day. Instead the once strong tree was hammered and awed into a simple fishing boat. She was too small and too weak to sail to an ocean, or even a river, instead she was taken to a little lake. The third tree was confused when the wood cutter cut her into strong beams and left her in a lumberyard. “What happened?” The once tall tree wondered. “All I ever wanted was to stay on the mountain top and point to God…”
Many days and nights passed. The three trees nearly forgot their dreams. But one night, golden starlight poured over the first tree as a young woman placed her newborn baby in the feed box. “I wish I could make a cradle for him.” Her husband whispered. The mother squeezed his hand and smiled as the starlight shone on the smooth and sturdy wood. “This manger is beautiful.” She said. And suddenly the first tree knew he was holding the greatest treasure in the world.
One evening a tired traveler and his friends crowded into the old fishing boat. The traveler fell asleep as the second tree quietly sailed out into the lake. Soon a thundering and a thrashing storm arose. The little tree shuddered. She knew she did not have the strength to carry so many passengers safely through the wind and the rain. The tired man awoke. He stood up, stretched out his hand, and said, “Peace.” The storm stopped as quickly as it had begun. And suddenly the second tree knew he was carrying the king of heaven and earth.
One Friday morning, the third tree was startled when her beams were yanked from the forgotten wood pile. She flinched as she was carried through an angry jeering crowd. She shuddered when soldiers nailed a man’s hand to her. She felt ugly and harsh and cruel. But on Sunday morning, when the sun rose and the earth trembled with joy beneath her, the third tree knew that God’s love had changed everything. It had made the third tree strong. And every time people thought of the third tree, they would think of God. That was better than being the tallest tree in the world.
We all start out with big dreams of what our life SHOULD look like and we embark upon those plans. When those things don’t pan out the way we hoped, a sense of inadequacy can settle in our souls. It doesn’t help when we begin looking at other people and they SEEM to be flourishing. Admiring the trees showed me that while they may not have the reasoning ability that we do, we could still learn a thing or three from them.
We need to trust the planter. Our planter is God. The season you are in may not look like much, but you cannot judge your whole life based on your current season. We will have a spring, summer, fall and winter. There is a purpose for each. Your current season is only temporary but it serves to help you achieve your purpose.
The plans and purpose for you are for you alone. Again, they are plans to prosper you, not to harm you; to give you a hope and future. The plans may come together slowly, but they will come surely….in the right season.