"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
Once upon a time, there was a beautiful garden. In the garden were rose bushes, lilac, lantana, and fields of sunflowers and daisies abounded. Every day the garden keeper walked the pebbled pathways of the garden, pruning shears in one hand and a watering can in the other. Lovingly, he tended to the flowers and the shrubbery.
In the middle of the garden stood an arbor. Under the arbor, stood a bench and a birdbath. Birds sang from the trees all around the garden and tweeted happily as they danced in the bath. Butterflies flitted around, kissing one flowerbud to another. The sun overhead shone down, flooding the garden with its glory.
It was perfect and the gardener took pride and joy in his daily work in the garden.
It was perfect.
Near to the arbor was a tree - a horrific sight to see. Its branches were gnarly and crooked. Fungi climbed all along its limbs and trunk, and beneath the concealing of its bark, parasites ran rampant through its wood. No animals dared go near it or make their home in its branches. It smelled of rottenness and death. It was dying.
It was the Death Tree.
Every few months, the gardener would take his ax and he would chop down the Death Tree. First the limbs, then the branches, and finally, the entire trunk of the tree until he could see it no more. For a few months, the garden was free from the stench and shadow of death the tree bore. But within a few months, the Death Tree had grown back again. And again, the gardener would take up his ax and cut down the tree. But the more times that the Death Tree was felled, the faster the tree grew back.
Year after year passed in this manner until the frustrated gardenkeeper knew not what else could be done to protect his garden from the Death Tree.
Obviously, this narrative is simple and fictitious. Obviously, trees take much longer than a few months to grow, and not all trees grow back after being felled. But as I've sat in the presence of God in the past three weeks and quieted my soul in the place of prayer, the Lord put the visual of this tree in my mind.
For years, there were habits, characteristics, and mindsets that I struggled with inside myself - things that I wanted to rid of...things that held me back in growing my relationship with the Lord. For years, I tried chopping down those areas of my life and removing them in my own strong will and determination. And I would be successful, but only for a short time before the tree began to sprout forth in my life again.
Time and time again, I would find myself right back in the same place emotionally or spiritually that I had thought I had broken free from.
Over time, I eventually grew frustrated. Why couldn't I rid my life of these things for good?
Why? Because I failed to take care of the root of the problem. I overlooked the source of those things in my life. I wasn't uprooting the entire root system underground. I was only taking care of the issues that I could see on the surface. It was a temporary fix.
As I've been taking intentional time out of my busy life to sit at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to speak to me, to heal me, and to encounter me, He's been showing me the places where my difficulties first began. He's been showing me the incidents of hurt that led to the fears I deal with today.
He's been tracing my story back with me to where faulty perspectives and misconceptions about myself and about my relationships first began. He's exposing the roots of my own Death Tree. And I'm healing and being made whole again.
This is my own story. But in each of our lives, I think we all have our own Death Tree. That thing or multiple things in our lives that we know will ultimately lead to death- emotionally, relationally, or spiritually- and yet, no matter how hard we try to overcome it, it always finds it way back into our hearts. It's frustrating, it's discouraging, and it's exhausting.
But like in my story, it doesn't have to stay that way. There are roots to that issue in your life, and if you ask Him and allow Him to, the Lord will reveal where those roots lie. It's ugly sometimes. It might be painful. It might take you back to memories and decisions that you thought you had already laid to rest buried. But it's where the place of true freedom lies.
It's a root issue.
Dealing with the heart of the problem and uprooting the lies and seeds of brokenness and sin that only Jesus can uproot. Don't try to do it alone. Don't even try to do it. Just talk to Jesus and let Him bring exposure and do the healing and fixing as you turn your eyes solely to focus upon His face in the quiet place of meeting Him and encountering His presence.
We have Death Trees in our lives. But the good news is... that isn't where the story ends.
Finally, one day, the gardener stopped cutting down the tree. He gave up. The tree would just keep growing back. So he laid down his ax and he uprooted the Death Tree. The Death Tree was no more.
But in its place, the gardener chose to plant a new tree. The animals made their home beneath the shadow of its foliage. The birds made their nests in the shelter of its wide-stretching branches. It brought life and healing to all who drew near to it and it stood as a reminder in the place once of Death that of darkness can be birthed New Beginnings. Second Chances. And Hope.
The Healing Tree.
Lord, I pray for myself and for my sisters in You. Thank you that You are the Healer and Restorer of our souls. Thank you that we never have to fear bringing our hurts or our fears or struggles to You because You are a good Father and You love Your children. I ask that You search our hearts, God, and that You reveal to us the roots of all things in our hearts, our minds, and our souls that are not a root of truth from You. I ask that You permeate our beings and that You uproot the things that are holding us back from walking in the freedom and fullness that You have for each of us as Your daughters. I pray that You plant new seeds within our lives in its place and that You'll grow within us a testimony to use to bring life and courage and healing to those around us. Let us be a witness of Your goodness and grace. Amen.
Is the gardener in this narrative us or is it God? You decide. To me, the gardener represents whoever is driving our life. If we're walking in the place of surrender and submission to the Lord as we should be as His children, then the gardener is God. He is the Master Gardener after all. But when we try to take control of our own lives with all of our stress and striving, then I believe we become the gardeners of our lives. Who is tending to your garden right now?
What are areas or struggles in your life that you identify as your personal Death Tree? Ask the Lord to reveal those areas to you, to uncover the roots, and to heal what needs to be healed in your heart. Ask Him to plant a new tree- a testimony of your freedom and deliverance- within your heart and to give you the courage to share that testimony as your Healing Tree to bring hope and life to all those around you.
Written by: Julia Glover