Hey everybody. My church is doing a series for Lent on trees in the Bible. Each week we have a sermon on a tree, and then discuss the sermon and the tree in our small groups. Our theme song is called “Mercy Tree,” by Lacey Sturm. If you haven’t heard of it, go look it up online and read the lyrics, and listen to the recording. In my opinion it is a great song for reflection on Lent, Jesus, sin, forgiveness, and hope.
The first two weeks of our series have focused on the trees in the Garden of Eden. I have read that passage many times over the years and each time I notice something different. For example, I had not considered that both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil were in the midst of the garden. I always pictured the “bad” tree as a gnarly, foreboding looking tree on the opposite end of the garden, in some dark creepy corner with a big fence around it and a sign with a skull and crossbones, “KEEP OUT. BEWARE OF SNAKE.” But reading the story closely, it seems it was a pretty nice looking tree, with yummy fruit, and it was in the middle with the “good” tree and all the other vegetation. At least that is how Adam and Eve perceived it.
Things are not always what they seem.
I have often wondered, if that tree were forbidden, why did God put it in the garden in the first place? And why did it seem so attractive? Seems kind of mean, like God was deliberately baiting Adam and Eve and setting them up to fail. But that’s not the God I know. The sermon suggested another perspective. Everything in the garden was about God’s benevolent, thoughtful, abundant provision for mankind. Perhaps that forbidden tree was an opportunity for Adam and Eve to worship God through trust and obedience. By choosing not to eat of that tree, they accepted God’s loving authority over their lives, even if they didn’t understand it. So a tree that appeared attractive was hands-off, but it’s forbidden-ness made it a source of blessing?
Things are not always what they seem.
There are some choices in life that may seem obvious. “Thou shalt not….” Murdering comes to mind. But our perceptions can be a little off and the bad stuff can get mixed in. A little rationalization and something we know we aren’t supposed to do suddenly seems OK. Is it possible to murder a relationship without anyone actually dying? I’ve done it. Somebody says or does something that hurts me, so I just distance myself and let the relationship drift and shrivel from neglect. I justify it by thinking to myself, that person betrayed me and therefore can’t be trusted so I don’t need to be that person’s friend. I may have avoided the painful process of speaking the truth in love, forgiving, and attempting to reconcile, but I also lost what could have been a great opportunity to grow, and what could have become a closer friendship. Very sad considering the whole thing may have been a misunderstanding.
My relationship with my Mom is….challenging. I have always been a pretty independent person who prides myself on learning new things, figuring out how stuff works, and doing things for myself. I have worked full time since finishing college, lived on my own, taken several road trips by myself, and even became a homeowner a few years ago. So it has always bothered me that my Mom just doesn’t seem as driven as I am. I have taken several trips to visit her in Arizona, but she has only made one trip to see me, when I graduated college nearly 20 years ago. I have had 6 surgeries since then, and each time I had friends care for me because she would not fly out. I kind of resented it. OK, I didn’t just kind of, I completely resented it. So some years ago I decided I just wouldn’t visit her again until after she came to visit me. Of course I rationalized it by saying I was setting boundaries. Yeah, that’s mature. So much for honoring my father and mother….. Now all of a sudden Mom is in her 70’s and really can’t travel. Ironically, it has become much more difficult for me to travel because of the EDS, which I probably got from her, which is partly why it was so difficult for her to travel in the first place. While I’ve been having my decade-long tantrum I have been robbing myself of a relationship with my mother. For some strange reason my stubborn snit didn’t improve our relationship any. What I thought would vindicate me left me feeling like a whiny little kid. What appeared to be a good choice left me empty.
In a few weeks I am traveling to see my Mom. There are consequences to waiting so long. Our relationship has suffered from neglect. In my stubbornness I robbed us of the opportunity of a visit when we were both in better health. I robbed myself of many lessons God may have wanted to teach me through sharing life’s journey with my Mom. I cannot get that time back. However, I can choose today whom I will serve. I can see through eyes of faith rather than relying on my own flawed perception. I can go against the world’s school of conflict “resolution” and instead choose humility, compassion, forgiveness, and honor for my mother who, like me, is flawed. I can choose the mercy tree.