Last Christmas when I pulled out the decorations I swore I wouldn’t buy any more. Somehow over the previous twenty-five years I’d acquired more than a department store would need. That’s probably an overstatement, but it’s safe to say my collection had grown to the point it was time to downsize.
This added a lot of time to the decorating effort then, but that investment paid off this year. After Thanksgiving when it was time to break out the boxes I had the halls decked in record time. Nothing even looked like it was missing.
The temptation to buy more was still there though. When you’re Christmas shopping everything looks like a must-have. The cable knit sweater pillows designed to look like presents, the felt Santa trolls, and the embroidered hand towels none of your guests will even use all call your name. It’s crazy! More than once I had to stop myself by remembering last year’s vow. That worked well for a little while, but then I had a run in with a few pennies and one thing led to another.
I was meeting a friend for coffee and while we were waiting she started looking at the decorations for sale. I followed along and when we got to the miniature trees I showed her my favorite—the Charlie Brown tree.
“Isn’t this cute?” I asked.
“Adorable,” Kelly said.
“It’s even got Linus’ blanket wrapped around it.”
“That’s too cute!”
“I’m not buying it though. I need another tree like I need a hole in the head.”
“But it’s perfect you should,” she argued.
“No, I’m not,” I promised.
Fortunately, our coffee was finally ready and our conversation shifted to other things. I didn’t think much about the tree after that even with it sitting nearby while we talked. But then, when I went to leave I noticed someone had dropped a penny right under it. That made Kelly’s words echo in my head, “You should get it.”
No I thought, and left. Then when I got to my car there were two more pennies and as I bent down to pick them up I swore one said, “GO” and the other “BACK”. I stood up and thought this is crazy. What’s so important about this tree? I couldn’t bring myself to leave though and before I knew it I was headed back in the store. Minutes later the tree and I were headed home.
It was a snap to assemble and suddenly I knew where to put it. Back at the store I didn’t think I had a good spot for it but now I did. It had to sit on my front porch. There’s a table and chair there and this time of year we have hundreds of folks that walk or drive by to look at Christmas lights. It’s such a heartwarming tree I thought everyone should see it.
I set the tree out and went down to the sidewalk to take a look. To my left sat Charlie’s tree sparse and wilting and to my right our family tree—a seven foot Noble Fir crowned with an angel on top. Complete opposites yet they both make a statement. One speaks to the frailty of man and the other the glory of God seen in creation. The little tree can barely stand while the other easily lifts her arms in prayer. The contrast was striking.
Shifting my gaze from tree to tree I was touched by how beautiful both were and this is when I finally saw the illustration God had for me. His voice whispered in my ear, “Strong and tall is no more beautiful than bent and bowed. Either way one’s life can be a work of art.”
So true I thought, but this is an idea that’s easily overridden in my mind. More often than not I equate how I feel with the value I have. When I feel strong and tall I think my life has more relevance. When I feel like I’m barely hanging on I think I’m useless.
Yet feelings are one of the easiest things to betray a man. At best they’re fleeting and at worst they linger, leading you to believe you are what you feel. However the truth is, that how you feel isn’t who you are. A tree is a tree whether it stands tall or low to the ground. The purpose it can serve might vary but it is not eliminated. Beauty can still be found.
Charlie recognized this, and maybe this holiday season those of us who need the reminder can too. Whether or not you think you’re a worthy part of creation isn’t what matters. It’s what you do with what you have that does.