Bending birch trees has a lot to teach us about the way God grows our heart.
Something more is at play when we pore over the Word, or carve out time to pray-the stuff of our devotional life. God is planting moral courage, and planning a funeral for our fears. It’s not about good feelings, precious promises, or startling insights. God wants to take us to a place our heart’s want to climb, but our wills often resist.
As kids romping through the woods of northern New Jersey, my brother JoJo and I would occasionally come across a stand of white birch. We could never resist the urge to shimmy up their slender, branchless trunks. When we got to the point where we felt the tree bend against our weight, we would stretch one more length, grasp the trunk with both hands, take a deep breath and throw our legs out into nothingness. The tree would bend with elastic grace all the way to the ground!
Let’s use the shimmying as our devotional life. It’s routine and repeatable, the grunt work of our faith. We feel like we make progress, but then slip again. But we know we’re barking up the right tree! To open our Bibles is an act of faith, and to pray requires our eyes to focus on the unseen. As we take grip of these devotions day to day, without knowing it, we ‘inch up the trunk,’ we build faith; until the moment God decides we’re ready. That’s when we feel the bend in the trunk.
If often starts with a flutter in the belly, as God reveals His will. ‘You want me to do what?’ Other times we may feel agitated, or be admonished, or even suffer disappointment. God wants to break into our contented equilibrium, because He knows our deepest desire is to come face to face with Him. That requires all the focus and faith we can muster. We grow when we trust Him to land us on our feet, even though our hearts are racing, and our mouth is dry. Bible study and prayer prepare us for that critical moment God asks us to jump. These are the times where faith deepens and our view of God expands. The organ music plays, and God lays our fear to rest.
Are you feeling the bend of the birch today? Hold fast to Him, He is able to do immeasurably more!
To fear God is to fear nothing but God.