I was lying in bed this morning thanking God for his healing and then
praying for greater healing from some childhood damage I have often
struggled to overcome.
I began thinking about how nice it would be if those events had never
happened. But as I was praying about it, the thought came to me to
"remember the bent tree".
The "bent tree" story is one I heard as a young boy when an elderly
pastor was talking about it to his adult congregation. Being a "young
tree" myself at the time, I didn't then fully understand the story.
From my childhood memory, it goes like this:
A large family with several children had just moved to a home in the
country. The children were delighted to discover that on the property
there was a pond suitable for swimming. On a bank at the side of the
pond a young oak tree was growing. The tree was so young that its trunk
and branches were thin and quite flexible--not capable of supporting
The children discovered that with a running start they could make the
thin branches swing and arc over the pond enough to drop in with a
satisfying splash. They spent many happy summer hours playing in the
pond and swinging from the tree. But after a few years they outgrew
the pond and the tree was no longer used.
There was damage to the small tree, however. The branches and trunk had
been bent and twisted and strained so much they were no longer straight
as they had been before. The tree looked like it was crippled forever.
Time passed and 35 years later, the long-since grown children came
together for a reunion in the area of their childhood. They asked the
new owners of the property if they could explore once more the place
they had grown up. And of course, they walked out to the pond.
In their mind's eye, they expected to see a spindly young oak at the
side of the pond.
But things had changed.
What they saw was a large mature oak tree whose trunk and branches had
become thick and massive. But through the solid branches they could still
see the unnatural bend in the trunk they themselves had created--it had
become part of the tree's character.
I think the story might have ended there as the pastor made the point
that "as the twig is bent, so grows the tree". I think he was teaching
that all of us, as parents and neighbors, affect the lives of our
children and people around us in ways that can change their lives for
good or bad forever.
But this morning, as I remembered the tree, I saw there is more to the
story. Yes, the tree had been damaged and bent. But where there had been
damage and weakness there was now massive strength and attractive character.
The curving trunk and branches arching over the pond could no longer be
moved. In fact, the tree now provided stability to the bank on which it
grew and extra shade over the pond for comfort to others. A new rope had
been hung from the now solid branch for a new generation of children to
swing over the water.
It was as if the Lord was telling me that I was praying for the healing
He had started long ago. And the healing He often chooses is turning
weakness and damage into strength and character that may be used by Him
to provide support, comfort and teaching to others. Yet the healing I
had been praying for was to "make it as if it never happened."
Thinking about the bent tree helped me understand a little more what the
Lord has told us before--that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.
When I realized that He has been healing me all along, I saw that my prayer
for healing needs to change--not so much that He will make it as though some
pain in life had never happened, but that His strength will be all the more
manifest-- because of it.