Our family has a statement about our father that tells much about his character.
“He would rather cut off his arm than cut down a tree.”
Dad loved trees and spent hours taking folks on hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains identifying trees and describing their qualities and interactions with the environment. He planted various varieties of trees and loved the unique aspects of each. Big old trees were held in special esteem by Dad and he valued the size and leaf canopy of old growth trees. In his 80’s our father took up a new hobby for him – turning wooden bowls. He found special joy in using a variety of wood – admiring the grain, color, and texture of each different type of wood. He NEVER cut a live tree to get wood to turn into one of his bowls. He collected dead trees and cut them up carefully treating the ends of each cut so the wood dried slowly and didn’t split.
There was one exception to Dad’s self imposed “no cutting trees” rule. He would thin out small trees to encourage maximum growth of a more desirable tree. One example was his suggestion that we cut a tulip poplar that was growing near a gingko tree. His reasoning was that we had LOTS of tulip poplar trees, some being very large. This little tulip poplar would eventually become large and overshadow our one lone gingko tree. Phil cut the poplar down and several years later our gingko tree has grown to a large tree with a beautiful shape. Cutting down one tree definitely enhanced the life of the other tree.
There are times in our lives when we need to “cut something out”. It can be an activity, a habit that is unproductive, media use, a commitment that is no longer required, or an activity that someone else could do. Often those activities are good. Yet they may be occupying space (time) in our day that crowds out other better things. Just as I made a judgement on which is the more desirable tree, I make judgements on how I spend my 24 hours a day.
Have you found yourself saying “I am overwhelmed by what I have to do”?
Something needs to be cut out.
That is easier said than done. There have been times in my life when I was overwhelmed by the needs of my children, aging parents, job responsibilities, etc. – NONE of which I could (or wanted) to cut out.
Yet more often I am my own worst enemy. I pile things on because I think I “should”, I can’t say “no”, or I don’t realize I am doing too much until I am overwhelmed!
In Matthew 13:22-23 Jesus explains the parable of planting seeds he has just used in teaching his followers.
22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
No fruit is produced from seeds that are “crowded out by the worries of this life”. Notice Jesus does not say “if there are worries” or “you might feel worried”. No, when Jesus says the worries of this life it says to me that life has worries. Yet Jesus wants his followers to know that he has given them NEW LIFE which produces the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal.5:22)
So if I cut out the things in my life that crowd out the fruit of the Holy Spirit, I am able to experience peace and joy in the midst of my circumstances.