Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Trimming Down

A little over a week ago a storm offered great relief to the stifling string of hot temperature days.

It also brought a limb down from one of our two huge beloved front yard gumball trees.

This image at first stole my breath. Then, in the midst of the tail end of the storm, our neighbor and Paul side by side sawing and stacking branches, it offered a chance for me to further appreciate the kindness of those both to the right and to the left of our cozy lot. Later, as I surveyed the [previously unseen] rot and rippling effect of damage at the center of the tree, something told me that we were dealing with an issue much greater than 60 mph winds or a limb which was torn in a way that would require professional help to remove it correctly.

There was something bigger here. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but that knowledge was at the pit of my stomach even after Paul met with the tree removal crew and held high hopes the tree would be largely saved.

Two days ago, I watched through the generously clear windows of our living room as the crew quickly and fiercely trimmed, hoisted, sawed, and hacked my charm of a tree into the most pathetic eyesore I've ever seen. Thomas and I, shocked, watched the neighbors drive by gawking, eyes enormous as they held onto their steering wheels and remained just conscious enough of the road as to not completely drive off into the ditch.

I won't show you that side of the tree. It's so bad I don't have the heart to take a photo of it.

Here's what we see just off our porch, a sight we're told "will look much better in two years".

It was as I expected. Something was wrong, and it needed to be fixed, amended, tended to in a way that would, for now, drop our property value, transform our yard into --what's this???-- a sunny spread, and make us also gawk and hold onto our steering wheel as we pulled into our driveway from the street.

The tree was damaged long ago.  Its center never grew properly.  For years it continued to branch out, bear fruit, and offer a sense of comfort, protection, and let me tell you Heaven for the residents who have chronologically shared ownership of this house.  Although it appeared strong, bold, and healthy, it was only a matter of time before its mangled core gave up and let its weight down.

My response to this tree episode has been a mixed bag. As if I don't think about death enough, this further entertained my anxieties about mortality. The trimming of the tree has also had me pondering what sin can do to the center of our lives and how even when we bear copious fruit afterward, that damage can still bring us, or parts of us, down. The tree has helped me remember that life can be so often confused by the security of physicality, even when that physicality comes in something not artificial like that new purse or stylish pumps, but even in the purity of a beautiful tree. And in a simple straightforward response to the tree, I've got field guides on my mental list of buy this next! I want to walk the streets of my neighborhood and be able to know each tree by name in light of a greater hope to be more attentive to both the people and things which have been entrusted to me.

Sometime last week in between the moment of "Oh my, a limb fell down" and the day of "Oh my gosh, there goes our tree, Thomas!" some gratitude came to settle in my heart.  I welcome yet another way to accept Jesus's message to travel lightly, to cast off our belongings, and to simplify our lives in light of a greater joy than the false security of material possessions.

If Paul and I were tree geniuses and we had chosen to look past the great shade and beautiful green stretches of the gumball tree, we could have taken note that the tree was leaning to the left.  We could have ultimately addressed the problem before the problem addressed us. However, either scenario would have ended similarly: a trimming down.

Life is just the same. I can choose to take note of a call to simplicity, trimming down for the long term mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health of my soul. 

Or, I can wait for the storms of this world to rip me from my core.

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