I held it in my hands, not knowing what was underneath it. It looked like any ordinary branch from the top, wooden and covered in a flaky ashen grey bark. The grain and color of this branch looked healthy and strong. But when I turned it over I discovered the reason this branch had broken off and had fallen to the ground. On the underside the wood was infected and terminal. On the underside termites had other insects were milling about slowly devouring this branch from the inside out. Glancing up at the tree, from which this branch had fallen, I quickly realized that this tree was doomed. It looked sturdy from the outside, it towered over me as its branches reached the sky and stopped at about twenty or thirty feet above me. The tree wasn’t that old, perhaps ten or twenty years, and it would have continued growing had it not been for the parasite now eating it alive from the inside.
Slowly over the next couple of months, as I would walk past this tree which was situated in a park near my home, I watched in silent sadness as it lost all of its once beautiful leaves. Now with bare branches it stood ready to be chopped down by the park’s caretakers. It had gone from a vibrant young tree with so growth to achieve to a dead, hollowed out shell worthy of becoming wood chips or kindling for a fire.
Watching this foliage of tragedy unfold reminded me of how we are sometimes like this young tree in our spiritual lives. We attain a certain height in our spiritual maturation process, we look vibrant, hopeful and secure in our faith…but then it happens. We allow a small portion of our old lives to still exist within us. Sometimes on purpose while other times unknowingly.
As children of God who are called to be set apart for His purposes, we secretly set apart some of the old self and cling to it even though it could kills us spiritually. We store it up in our hearts, compartmentalize our “church life” from our “other life” and yet we know somewhere deep down inside of us that we are called to surrender it all. We are called to one life, not two separate lives. Either we’re with God as His child or we’re back in the world and in our old sinful, self indulgent lifestyles. When we cling to these bits and pieces of ourselves, which existed before the moment of our salvation, we are essentially saying to God, “you can have most of me, but I’m keeping this one small thing!”
When we do this, why are we then surprised when we begin to rot from the inside out? Why are we shocked when we lose our fruit and our branches become bare? Why do we suddenly realize that our passion for Christ is now gone and yet can’t fathom why it is that way?
If we were to get serious about this faith and about our spiritual survival, we would quickly realize how vital it is for us to face our infections. These infections are the spiritual parasites or the leftover remnants of the old life. We cannot ignore them, because they will never go away unless when expose them and submit them to the light of Christ. To simply ignore their presence only seals our fate of being slowly hollowed out and eaten alive.
From the outside that branch looked healthy, yet when I turned it over and saw what had become of it, I knew that the tree from which it had come was doomed. It was so brittle and full of holes from which the termites poured out. The outside looked fine, but the tree had lost that internal battle.
I think there is something to be said about our internal battles as well. We, as Christ followers, can not afford to lose this internal battle that wages within us. There is still work to be done by the Holy Spirit in the hearts of us all! There may be small pockets of the old life still resistant and evident in us. No one else knows it. By all appearances we look fine and healthy on the outside, yet on the inside we’re struggling to stay alive.
Two things must take place within our hearts to prevent this parasite of sin to continue to exist within us;
One, we must expose it for what it is. Don’t hold back or ignore it. Do not shy away from confronting it, and do not keep it hidden. The Lord knows its there, yet we keep trying to convince ourselves that it is not. Expose it to the Light of Christ! Share it with Him. Open up the doors of those hidden dark passages of your heart and allow His light to flood them completely! Without first exposing it to the Light of Christ, we can pretend and ignore it. But once we’ve opened up the doors completely, and honestly looked in, we can’t help but feel shame and regret. Let it happen. Spiritual maturity, also known as Holiness, cannot take place completely without first facing our deepest darkest sins. Then we get serious. Then we let it all out and place it in the forgiving nail scarred hands of Christ.
Secondly, once His light has gained access to the abscesses of our hearts, we must be willing to let go of it. We must relinquish our grip on it. We must surrender it all to Christ. Nothing else can grow there, nothing else can change in our spirit if we don’t first surrender those remnants of the old sinful ways.
When we have exposed this parasitical sin to His light and surrendered it into His hands, then we find ourselves surprisingly free of this burden of guilt and shame. We find that we can finally grow again and allow His very image to be our sole desire.
The tree doesn’t have to die, our spiritual walk doesn’t have to stagnate! We must be willing to reveal and surrender, then the healing can begin which will give way to this tremendous growth.
-Just a thought for today.