It was because we wanted to maintain a good relationship with our neighbor that we kept the tree. It was dead and looked ghastly.
Just the week before, I had almost taken it down. "If I give it a hard push, I think it will collapse," I remember thinking. But this is when I came upon my neighbor. "I love looking at the birds that perch on that tree, " he said. "I spend a lot of time looking at them."
Suddenly I was faced with a choice: to take down the dead tree, or to keep good relations with my neighbor. And so the old tree stayed up. For many more years. Looking quite dead and desolate. Only my neighbor and the birds seemed to enjoy it.
But then, one spring, I noticed that a few tiny leaves were appearing on that tree. Soon it was covered with beautiful dark green leaves. The tree was fully alive, and well.
I never thought such a thing could happen. I had written this tree off.
That got me thinking. What of my life? Am I writing off part of it? Am I sometimes thinking that I have to put up with some limitations that are the result of events or decisions of the past?
There is indeed a tendency to blame the past for things that are happening in the present. It's easy to think that the opportunities have come and gone. "Oh, if I could only go back in time," we're tempted to think, "I would do things differently, and my life would be so much better. But it's too late."
It was not too late for the tree in my backyard. Nor is it too late for anyone to look at life the way God does. This means to look at life the way it really is. The way God intends it to be. The way God unfolds it to us, moment by moment.
We don't need to look at every step and worry about having taken this one or that one. We can look to the all-wise and all-loving creator and learn to recognize that, as the Bible puts it, "He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he" (Deut. 32:4).
Thinking of God as the Rock, the very foundation of life, reveals that we are not on shaky ground but that life must necessarily reflect the divine purpose, with all its wisdom, beauty, and freshness. This becomes evident by turning away from self-absorbed considerations and seeing more of the divine plan unfolding in our life.
The founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy, is one who could have felt held back by events from her past. For years, the goal of a stable, happy home eluded her - her first husband passed away, her second husband was unfaithful and left her, and for health reasons she could not care for her son and was separated from him. For much of her life she fought a long battle with ill-health.
But when she awoke to God's supreme government and discovered that life is governed by divine laws that can be understood, she realized she had lost nothing of the life that God had given her. That it was just as complete, satisfying, and good as God had intended it to be.
This is the way she describes this awakening: "The divine hand led me into a new world of light and Life, a fresh universe - old to God, but new to His 'little one' " ("Retrospection and Introspection," pgs. 27-28).
As we learn to recognize, day by day, God's guidance, and trustfully yield to His directions, we will come to see more of the "new world of light," the "fresh universe" awaiting us, moment by moment.
The dead tree is not what represents our life. Our life is always as fresh as the green leaves of summertime.
It is of the Lord's
mercies that we are
not consumed, because
his compassions fail not.
They are new every morning.
Lamentations 3:22, 23
(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor