It was spring, and nature was wearing a soft, delicate veil of new splendor. On a road we travel occasionally, only one tree stood bare – the kapok tree. With an enormous trunk supporting huge, graceful branches, this solitary giant couldn’t help capturing my attention. But its naked limbs showed no sign of the seasonal awakening going on around it. What was wrong? I wondered. Why wasn’t it blooming?
Weeks went by before we drove down the same road again. By then, the kapok tree was bursting with life. Deep green foliage covered the once-empty branches. As I admired its beauty, I realized there had never been anything wrong with the tree. It simply bloomed later than other trees.
When I was younger, I remember feeling like the bare branches of the kapok tree in early spring, wondering if I had a purpose. I looked around at others who seemed so much more together than I was, and I felt inadequate. In school, my grades were poor. It didn’t seem as if I was destined to make any kind of worthwhile contribution.
I prayed to know that there was something I had to give, and I trusted God – who made us all equal and individual – to show me what it was. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy writes: “Man is not matter; he is not made up of brain, blood, bones, and other material elements. The Scriptures inform us that man is made in the image and likeness of God. Matter is not that likeness” (p. 475). As I prayed, I began to understand that my real identity was not a material structure, but the spiritual creation of our Father-Mother God, expressing intelligence and capability. Therefore, true success, happiness, confidence, and self-worth are based on our relation to God, divine Love.
The more I learned about Love, the more I learned about myself. Knowing God as infinite good gave me a sense of unlimited potential. There could be no end to the good God gives each of us to express, or any inferiority or inadequacy in my true identity.
As humble trust in God, and a deeper confidence that I reflected divine Love, grew within me, opportunities opened up to give and to express God’s love to others. What I did, I did for God. I was less tempted to judge myself based on what other people were doing or what I thought they were thinking or saying about me.
One day I signed up for an art class. The minute I put my hand on a paintbrush, something inside me jumped with inspiration. Painting opened up a whole new world, and it changed my life. I felt enveloped in spiritual grace and gratitude for God’s goodness. My paintings were an opportunity to express my appreciation for all the good that was coming to me.
This passion for art helped pave the way for a fulfilling career. And the struggle to find my right place and talents, and the prayer I had devoted to that quest, gave me a kinder, more compassionate outlook toward those who have similar challenges.
Every spring, when brown branches begin to bud and bloom, I look at the still-dormant kapok tree and know that it will soon be filled with the lustrous beauty of green leaves. Our lives are blessed with the same promise. The outward appearance may suggest emptiness or stagnation, but our spiritual identity is always intact, always active. God’s plan for us is being revealed, and it is incredibly wonderful.
Loving all mankind and contributing to others’ growth give me a feeling of spiritual joy and a sense of what life is really all about. We don’t all bloom at the same time or in the same way. In all seasons, divine Love, the source of all good, is always there, keeping us safe and giving us whatever we need for our development.
We are all cared for and spiritually endowed with talents and gifts to share in fulfilling ways. The more we realize this truth, the more we can relax and enjoy our God-inspired activities without the pressure to compare ourselves with others or compete. Our place is established by God. Our job is to listen and follow where God leads us, with patience and gratitude each step of the way.
This article was adapted from an article in the Jan. 9, 2017, issue of the Christian Science Sentinel.