Monday, March 23, 2015

The Crook in the Lot

This tree sits next to our house as a constant reminder of human frailty and God's sovereignty.

It's right beside our driveway. I see it every day as I pull in from work. In the summer it's heavy with leaves that hide its deformity, but when the leaves fall off you see just how crooked it is. I often wonder: Was this tree planted hurriedly and incorrectly, without adequate thought of the angle it would take as it grew? Did it miss out on some critical ingredient in its infancy? Did a child thoughtlessly kick the tree, hammer a nail into it, or push it over and then try to prop it up--is that why it got off to a bad start?

But then look at the photo: In time the tree sensed its nonconformity, tried to correct itself, but overcompensated. Now it goes too far in the other direction. It's easily the ugliest tree in the cul-de-sac. The fact that other, more beautiful trees and shrubs grow around this tree only underscores its woundedness.

Still, this tree bears fruit. It's growing at a steady rate, stretching its branches more and more with each passing year. This summer it will again be full with large, bright green leaves. In the fall they will avalanche down all around our yard and that of my neighbor. Then the naked tree will once again be revealed for the crooked piece of work that it really is.

The tree is a living parable, of course.

Many years ago, the Scottish pastor Thomas Boston wrote a book called The Crook in the Lot: Or, the Sovereignty and Wisdom of God Displayed in the Afflictions of Men. Boston based his book on Ecclesiastes 7:13, which says, "Consider the work of God: who can make straight what he has made crooked?" In other words, said Boston, everything that happens, happens at God's command and by God's design. God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass, including our weaknesses, trials, and struggles. We are thus able to say with the psalmist, "The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places" (Psalm 16:6). We don't have to struggle against who we are, where we've been planted, the work we've been given to do, and the weaknesses that make our way difficult.

If my tree could talk, it might say, "God, why did you make me like this? I don't like being different. I'm the talk of the neighborhood and I don't like it. This is not the life I would have chosen."

But if my tree were a Bible-believing tree, it would hasten to add, "But it's the life you've chosen for me. Therefore I will rest in your sovereign wisdom, believing that you work all things according to the counsel of your will, for our good and your glory."

The reason for my tree's crookedness is a mystery. But it is what it is. It's been given a crook in the lot. Faith means accepting God's will, acknowledging his goodness, living for others, and looking forward to that day when the crooked will be made straight.  

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