“Right now this is a $500 dollar tree but continue to let it grow and it will be worth far more,” he said. “The creek bank is not showing any signs of eroding. Just let it grow.” At that time the tree was probably around 4-5 feet from the edge of the steep bank that led down to the water’s edge. He estimated that the whole woods needed another 10 years to be ready for harvesting. Shortly after, we ended our meeting and I often thought about that walnut tree by the creek.
As the years went by, I continued to check on that old tree. I told everyone that walked past it with me that it was our most valuable tree. But about 2 or 3 years after the forester came out to the house; I began to notice changes taking place. On one particular trip down by the creek I noticed the distance between the creek and the tree was now about 3 feet. “Wow,” I thought to myself. “At least we only have to make it another 7 or 8 years or so before we can cut it down.” Time continued to pass and every time I walked past that tree I would look to see if that creek bank had changed. Every time I would see that the tree was getting closer and closer to the edge. I began to get stressed about it.
A few months ago after the creek levels had risen following a good rain that caused the snow to melt; I noticed a large hole in the creek bank where the beautiful walnut tree had stood. My stomach sank as I looked at the large crater in the earth. My prized possession in the woods had fallen. Immediately a wave of depression enveloped me. In that moment, God opened my eyes to my mistake.
Jesus further illustrates how we must put Him first in Luke 14:26 "If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters--yes, even their own life--such a person cannot be my disciple.” Strong words from our creator. If we are to follow God, we must put Him above all else. If something or someone else gets in the way of our relationship, we must cut it down, push it over, and run from it. The truth is, it has been satan’s plan from the beginning to use the 'trees' of this earth to distract us and pull us away from God. It started with the forbidden fruit.
Too often we Christians live our lives backwards. I am certainly guilty. We fill our lives with the things we like to do and whatever is left over we give to God. But God says we cannot be a disciple if we do not put Him above all else. What does God mean when He says we must hate our life? Our sinful nature is all about me. What can I get? What can I do? What can I do to make me feel good? If we hate our own lives our focus shifts from us to others. We then ask the questions: What can I give? What can I do for someone else? What can I do to brighten someone’s day?
If you hate your life your joy will come from helping others. What brings you joy?