It was one of my favorite trees. And it was dying.
We live on a lake, and my dying tree was truly a “tree planted by streams of water.” So how could it be dying? How could branches right in the smack dab middle of the bushy green be turning into kindling? It didn’t make sense.
I called an arborist to come out and take a look. He saw the problem right away.
“Ma’am, see how that tree looks like a telephone pole stuck in the ground? That’s not the way a tree should be planted. You should be able to see some of the roots spreading out from the trunk. Those roots are covered up with dirt, grass, and these pretty perennials you’ve planted at the base. The tree can’t breathe.”
“It can’t breathe?” I asked.
“Yep. You see a tree is a living organism that needs to breathe just like you do. If the roots are smothered, then it can’t. Trees need sunlight, water, carbon dioxide and nutrients from the soil. Those flowers you have planted around it are actually stealing the nutrients. The dirt covering the roots is suffocating it. It has water, but it needs more than that.
“Bottom line, your tree is stressed out.”
Ah, words I understood. Stressed out.
So, the arborist cleared away some of the dirt from around the roots to allow the tree to breathe and cut away the dead limbs. Then he dug up the flowers and tossed them aside. I could almost hear the tree take a deep breath as if to say, “Ah, thank you!”
Three months later, it looks like the tree is going to make it after all.
I thought of David’s words
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)
All this thinking about a tree planted by streams of water made me think about my schedule…my life.
And of course, that led me to your schedule…your life.
I like to think of myself as a tree planted by the water similar to the one mentioned in the first psalm. I get up every morning and soak in God’s Word before jumping into my day. That’s my water. My living water.
But it’s not enough to drink in the morning and then smother my day with too many activities, commitments, and deadlines.
I need more than water to thrive.
I need to breathe.
I think of Jesus’ words to his disciples…to me…to you:
“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
You need to breathe.
I can plant “beautiful” activities in my life like those flowers, but they may be sucking the nutrients right out of my soul. Those activities might look nice on my calendar, but they might not be soul nice.
I can smother my roots with commitments and pile on the soil so that I look more like a non-living thing stuck in the ground—a telephone pole—rather than a fruit-bearing tree.
So as we begin this fall season with its activities left and right, we need to stop and examine if they are exactly what God wants us to do, or if they are just “pretty flowers ” that are keeping us from being that tree that yields fruit in due season.
Before taking on a new commitment, ask yourself these questions my friend Liz Higgs taught me to ask:
- Will this activity matter one week from today? One month? One year?
- Is there someone who does this task better than I do, to whom I might delegate it?
- Does it satisfy a heart need for me or someone I love very much?
- What are the ramifications if I don’t do it?
- What are the outcomes if I do?
As we think about our fall schedules with it’s commitments and deadlines, we need to ask ourselves if we are covering up the roots of our hearts—smothering them from the very air we need to breathe.
Let’s do more than survive. Let’s thrive!
Clear away what needs to be cleared away. Toss out what needs to be tossed (even if it looks pretty on your schedule).
Make room to breathe.
If you are willing to commit to not overcrowding your schedule this fall, leave a comment that says, “I will not overcommit!”