What a Tree Can Teach You about Kindness

On Sunday, lest y'all ever think that we're 100% able to always practice what we "preach," I posted this on Facebook:

On Monday, Craig stayed home from work and through the morning, I still found myself bitter. Poor guy. HE'S SICK and I can't seem to muster up the compassion I know I should have and should be showing.

Part of the problem is that on Saturday, we spent all day working in the garden. Craig helped me. All day. But instead of resting in that gratitude for the day he was able to help, instead I grew resentful of the fact that we still had so much to do (inside and outside) and now, I would be completing all these tasks by myself.

I could have done the sane thing and adjusted the amount of items reasonably achievable by one person. But when I get in my "uber-productive" mode, I lose some section of my brain entitled "Rational thought." Words such as EFFICIENCY! PRODUCTIVITY! ORGANIZATION! ORDER! play through my brain on repeat. And anything (anyone?) that tries to disrupt my work? The image of Alice and Wonderland's Queen of Hearts passes through my mind.

Sad.

It takes a lot to break me out of this mode. I'm feeling pressure because I have deadlines looming. (You can ask my college roommates about how I deal with deadlines.) I don't like to sit down to write unless my house is reasonably clean. Both my kids have state tests next week, so after they are home, I need to help them study. Suitcases from Disney are still sitting on my floor and my dining room table is covered in the contents of my travel backpack. 

My internal mantra chants, "Go! Go! Go!" and it's hard to shush it. Even though God has changed so much in my heart, old patterns and behaviors are slow to die. (An aside: This is one reason why I love blogging so much. Writing all this out makes me slow down to process it all instead of dismissing it. I'm grateful for the space to share and be real.)

As I shared in our video this week, pressure, along with resentment, chokes out my ability to be kind. But if we're taking a spiritual look at kindness, it actually has little to do with our ability to be kind and more to do with how we allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. Galatians 5:22 says:

"But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control."

I'm asking God to help me surrender my agenda for His agenda. So, I'm watching for how He's moving and listening to what He's speaking to my heart. I'm making more room for Him and less room for me.

Yesterday, standing in my kitchen, I noticed a bird on our tree in our backyard. This, I realize, is not a climactic event, however, I don't remember ever noticing a bird in this particular tree. See, this tree has spent most of its life as a bush.

Let me tell you the tree story:

About eight years ago, our neighbor was getting rid of this tree to make room for something else in their backyard. We hired a landscape company to dig up the tree and put it in our backyard (because, hello, digging through pure rock in central Texas is not fun). "We" transplanted it in April that year, which meant it had to make it through the ghastly Texas summer to survive. After endless slow drips of water, it pulled through. A beautiful red oak stately stood where nothing did before. A beautiful addition to our yard.

A few years later, a huge thunderstorm rolled through, complete with wind shears. As I was watching the storm out the window, I noticed the tree bending over farther than it had before. That must be some wind! I thought. How can the tree bend that far without breaking?

Um, it can't. The wind shear almost completely sliced the tree in half. And much like in The Giving Tree, the tree became a stump.

And the girl was sad.

However, there were some tiny, maybe foot-long saplings that the tree had sown before she met her untimely death. We decided to let them grow to see what would happen. They've been growing for about five years now and we finally had our arborist friend come out to see what we should prune to help her become more tree-looking than bush-looking.

Our tree

Our tree

Though she will never be the stately, one-trunk tree, she is becoming more and more beautiful each season. And when the bird landed, I thought about this tree's journey.

Clearly, this is not the most efficient way to have a tree in our backyard. But the character that comes from this wild and (a little) wonky tree could come no other way. I can imagine future generations climbing on it's low branches, reaching to tops unreachable in a traditional tree. Maybe it will be sculpture-esque, the pièce de résistance, of our backyard? But no matter what it looks like, it will forever be a reminder that sometimes the most productive, the most efficient way, is not always the best way. Most certainly, it is not the only way.

To be honest, my first instinct is to be a stately tree, to grow the way trees (or humans) are supposed to grow. I don't like unexpected surprises. I don't like to waste time. Let's just be productive with our growth and stretch the right way, and we'll be done.

Written out like that sounds boring. And I realize there is the whole other side of me that craves the free-spirit of a tree who has seen some unexpected things, but is beautiful nonetheless. There's a girl who is willing to wait to see what happens, to allow God to reshape her, even when we don't quite know how her story will end.

The pressure to grow, to be some certain way dissipates when I think of God reshaping me. And if I'm not tunnel-visioned on creating my perfectly sculpted life, I have more room to allow the Holy Spirit to flow through me, showing kindness from a place of authenticity and deep love.

So here's to all of the wonky trees out there and to the Creator who is sculpting us all.