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June 17, 2016, 12:00 PM

The Peach Tree


by Haley Hardman

 

            Up until recently, I had a rather strange peach tree standing in my front yard. This tree looked as if it had been burned in the past, it was bent almost to a ninety-degree angle, and the trunk was completely hollow. Even with its looks being so completely fragile, every single year the strange tree always bloomed astonishingly beautiful hot pink flowers and then produced scrumptious peaches. In fact, when the tree started to bear the load of all of the peaches that it would produce, its branches would nearly bend all the way to the ground. With its peculiar character, it stood all the more beautiful in an odd broken and hollow way. I wish I had taken a picture of it before we cut it down. The only picture I have is of a blooming flower on one of its branches (featured above). My family and I adored this tree because of its remarkable strangeness, and to be honest, my mom and I nearly cried when we cut it down, but we had to do this so that the new tree growing out of the same ground could grow straight and get enough nutrients to produce. As we cut it down, we saw the sap coming out of the hollow trunk and knew it was only a matter of time before this old tree was actually as dead on the inside as it looked on the outside.

            While we were cutting away at the seemingly burnt bark, I couldn’t help but think that the cutting away of old flesh and embracing the new is exactly what we do as believers on a daily basis so that we can continue to walk on “the straight and narrow” and gain enough spiritual nutrients to continue producing Godly fruit.

 

Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT)

Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God- truly righteous and holy.

 

            If we are all honest with ourselves, we know that becoming a whole new person does not happen overnight. It statistically takes the average person twenty-one days to form a habit and twenty-one days to break a habit. Now, I am in no way saying that God can’t heal people of a bad habit overnight (I’ve actually experienced that myself), but I am saying that in my experience, we have to learn how to live life with God daily instead of thinking that He’s instantly going to take all of our troubles and sins away like a fairy god mother in Cinderella. That is why there is no perfect person living on this earth today. We are all striving to be better in some area or another, and I personally believe that we will never reach full perfection until we stand face to face with God someday.

            In saying all of that, I saw this strange peach tree as a metaphor and I didn’t even realize it until we were cutting it down. This tree was alive, but somewhere on the inside, something was killing it. Some would say that it was a miracle that this tree bloomed and produced things with its trunk being completely hollow- that even with all of its problems, life was still inside. While that is true, the brutal other half of the truth is that the tree was in the process of dying. You could say that the tree had just been hurt too many times, it had come to its last straw, it was at a breaking point, it had too much of a burden to bear, or whatever other excuse you could come up with. In actual reality, it stopped fighting the poison on the inside and instead, started letting the poison take over. It had accepted its defeat and no longer cared to win. You see, when we cut this tree down, it was blooming on only two of its branches. It went from a beautiful picture of perseverance, to what happens when you stop fighting back.

            I think that this happens to believers, young and old, too much to speak of. We get stuck in the mentality that no one can know that we’re hurting because they’ll hurt us even more, so we stand in agony trying to fight a battle inside of ourselves that we were never meant to fight alone. We have a certain thing that eats away at us, but we don’t let anyone else in on our secret because they’ll use it against us, when if the right person knew, they would help us get through our rough seasons. Or, we get stuck in a “victim mentality.” We wallow in our weaknesses and troubles, and we parade them to God like we have an excuse not to bear fruit. It’s heartbreaking to me that we get to the point that we feel like giving up on fighting the good fight-like it’s not worth it. The Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Not only have all sinned, but all have troubles (John 16:33). As John Dunn said, “No man is an island.” Mike Donehey once said, “If we want to participate in the Divine, then we need to come off our islands, and come back to the shore.”

            So, if we know that everyone goes through troubles, and we know that all sin, then why is it that we get to the point where we stop fighting? I think that is very clear: we forget who we are. And not only do we forget who we are, but we forget who God is. Once we forget who God is, we forget that God didn’t put us on this earth to suffer. No, His Word says that after God had made everything on this earth, it was good (Genesis 1:31). And Jesus came so that we might have life and life abundant (John 10:10). God doesn’t want us to suffer. God doesn’t want us to feel alone. But, we get stuck in a victim mentality, and we lie down, accept our defeat, and let the enemy rake us over the coals. Whether he does that with guilt, pride, isolation, fear, lust, depression, numbness, or pain, he presses all of our buttons and brings down the name of your God and all the while, we think that this is God’s will. “God is taking me through a humbling season.” “God is dealing with me about not attaching myself to others.” “God is closing this door in my life.” “God will fight for me!” “God is going to get me out of this mess.” We come up with all these excuses for our pain and suffering when God is screaming at us to fight! Fight for your joy! Fight for your marriage! Fight for your family! Fight for your friendships! Fight for your salvation! Fight for your purity! Fight for your soul! Fight for the Name of your God! Just FIGHT!! If we willingly let the Enemy trample over us, we cannot claim that we are victims, because God has given us the authority over all the power of the enemy (Luke 10:19) and all we have to do is remember that He has.

            One of the coolest things in the Bible to me is the monuments that people built to remember certain moments in their walks with God. My favorite is when Jacob builds his monument called Bethel.

 

Genesis 28:11-13, 15-19, 22 (NLT)

At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down this stairway. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants… What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.” Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I wasn’t even aware of it!” But he was also afraid and said, “What an awesome place this is! It is none other than the house of God, the very gateway to heaven!” The next morning Jacob got up very early. He took the stone he had rested his head against, and he set it upright as a memorial pillar. Then he poured olive oil over it. He named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), although it was previously called Luz… “And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshipping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”

 

            From then on, every time that Jacob passed that memorial pillar, he remembered who God was to him in that moment and who He would forever be. He would remember the promises that God made to him, the emotions he felt, the Presence he felt. From then on, he wouldn’t forget that God had a plan for him and that he was treasured in God’s sight. The fact is, whether you believe it or not, God has done a work in your life, and He has a plan for you. He treasures you and He loves you. He doesn’t want you to suffer; He doesn’t want you to be in pain. The other fact: there is a devil out there who does want you to suffer. He wants you to be in pain. He wants you to hate. He wants you to be in agony. He wants you destroyed because you are a threat to him when you bear the fruit of God. Don’t cower in fear because of an enemy that has no chance when you stand up to him with the power of God Almighty. Fight. Your life is worth it.

 

- Haley


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