My children you asked me for a story, and I will tell you my least favorite one, because gray days are made for sad stories, and sad stories for gray days. They make all the other days brighter.
There once was a tree that was loved by most everyone. They knew him by his fruit, his dark green leaves, and his wide-spreading branches. His roots went deep because they were nourished and tended to when they were very young. He was alive and growing, and the wood that made up his heart was strong and filled with life.
And yet he knew that there was more love and joy available than could be had alone, so when a tree house came along the tree saw a vision of a future—a future where children could climb to higher heights and spend more time enjoying his shade, his fruit, and the life that was deep in side his heart. The tree house was also made of wood, but it was not living. It had been at one time, but now it was dried out and cut into straight lines. This allowed it to be measurable and useful, but it also made it rigid.
The tree said to the tree house, “Come and live in me and be in my branches! I will hold you high, and keep you safe. My branches are strong and my roots run deep. Together we can bring more joy than we could on our own.”
The tree house said, “Ah, that sounds delightful! But there are only certain ways I can go. You see I am straight and measured and planned. Tree, you are not made for a tree house, but you can bend and move to fit my lines, and then you will be good enough.” And so the tree house with all of its strength and rigidity locked itself into the good and willing tree.
For a while, children, it was very good. The tree held the tree house high and proud and shaded it with his dark green leaves, and the tree house held fast to the tree connecting his many branches to one another. But when the storms came the tree—who used to sway so beautifully, dancing with the wind—swayed so little because the tree house was holding everything together.
“Stop! STOP!” yelled the tree house. “I didn’t know this would happen! This is too much!”
The tree was surprised. “Did you not know that storms would come, and blow, and move things about? But do not worry! You’ve locked yourself into me, and my roots grow deep. You are safe.”
But the tree house did not like the moving and the swaying, bending and dancing, or even the laughing of the leaves in the raging of the winds. It refused to trust the tree even when the tree did everything it could to keep the tree house from moving. He shed all his dark green leaves, and he stopped bearing his fruit, and everyone who loved him stopped knowing him by his fruit, and only knew him as the tree with the tree house in it.
And with the storms came floods, but the tree held the tree house aloft. He pleaded with the tree house, “I cannot continue to carry all of your weight! Though my roots are strong and run deep, the very ground beneath us has become soft and they are drowning. Please, you need to grow or surely we will both perish!”
But as I said, dear children, the wood in the tree house was dead and rigid and unbending. The tree continued to hold the tree house aloft, and he persevered in minimizing the storms as much as he could. He desperately needed to grow, but the tree house would not let him. It had been measured and cut to its own original plan of a perfect shape. The tree, because he was living and soft, grew around the tree house, taking on its shape and form. He could not grow wide and was not allowed to grow tall. The tree house cut deep into the heart of the tree, piercing his bark. The tree became infested with fire ants who ate of his flesh and stole of his life. Carnivorous spiders roamed free, feasting on the ants and leaving palaces of webs that scared all the children away. Webs grew thick, nails rusted, and the tree grew increasingly like the tree house: rigid, measured, and scared.
Until, finally the tree house said, “These storms keep coming, and you move too much. Your growth has split my planks and overwhelmed my lines. You let ants and spiders in to eat at your heart and infest my flesh. You have ruined yourself so that no one enjoys you any more. Especially me.” And it left.
And while the tree was bruised and cut and had his heart-flesh exposed by the removal of the tree house, he was once again free to grow. So he did. While he wept for the loss of his friend, with whom he’d weathered many storms, he grew bark back over his wounds. The fire ants now had nowhere to hide, and the spiders had nothing to feast on. His dark green leaves sprouted afresh and the people once again knew him by his fruit, and they were happy. And the tree finally understood the heights of the love and joy for which he so long ago had a vision.
What’s that my children? What became of the tree house? In truth we do not know. But living things grow and get stronger and weather many storms. And though it is wounded and gnarled, those scars are covered over and become the strongest part of that tree. The dead, rigid, measured wood can only return to be a part of the earth and feed everything that is living.
I told you it was not my favorite story, but it is a good story. The dead feed the living, and the living grow and give glory to God, even on a gray and cloudy day.
Jesse is a professor at Houston Baptist University. He also directs the school's theatre club, does handyman projects on the side, and produces features and short films. A Pastor's kid/missionary kid, his view of life is at the very least unique. And hopefully helpful.