Worshipping Willows :: by Camilla Smith

I believe that God will sometimes use extreme measures to get our attention. This is a simple small tale of a life lesson…a lesson that I firmly believe God wanted me to learn, as He is “molding and making me after His will.”

I’ve always been an aesthetically-minded, visual person. Ever since I was a little girl, I was decorating my room, moving things around, improving and changing, upgrading and tweaking. Same goes for now, although at age 50, I have finally decided to leave the house alone and stop with the nonsense. They are just “things.”

Maybe I am just an aggressive nester, but I love beautiful surroundings. Outdoors is no different. I work for hours and hours in flower gardens, creating the perfect landscape for my eyes to behold, and taking great joy out of my little projects. So much so that I had to have three acres to beautify.

I’ve always loved willow trees. I had them for 20 years at my old house. When we moved here 10 years ago, there was a wild (pond-side) willow near the street that had grown huge and majestic. It was perfect. My husband hated it. I loved it. But it wasn’t a weeping willow. I wanted a weeping willow. An authentic, genuine old-fashioned weeping willow. Did I mention my husband hates willows? I don’t know how this happened. Aren’t they part of God’s beautiful creation?

Anyway, after ten years of living here, I whined enough and got my weeping willow tree this spring. Of course, I’ve baby it, I nurtured it, and made sure it was smack dab in the middle of the yard out the back kitchen window. So happy…I now have TWO willow trees.

Then, yesterday afternoon, a beautiful late spring day, I looked out the front window at my large old willow and it was laying on the ground. The entire tree. Just laying there, all leafed out…all 60 feet of it. Just laying there. Not broken off, but uprooted. I was in shock. After an entire afternoon of cutting it to pieces and heaping it in the burn pile with my heart in tatters, I figured, Well, I’ll just take a start off this and grow me another one!

Today, it hit me. Three weeks to the DAY after I got my baby weeping willow, my massive tree in the front yard was uprooted. We had had a storm the night before. But this was a beautiful day. The tree was standing there in the morning after the storm. It was as if a mighty pair of hands had reached down and snatched a sapling out of the ground and gently laid it down. There weren’t even any broken branches. Not one. How symbolic.

While walking today, I pondered this event. Yesterday, I was sad. Today, I was mad. I tried to put the whole thing into perspective…of course, this was a silly thing. People had lost roofs, homes, LIVES, to bad weather the week before. I needed to just forget about this.

But God didn’t want me to forget about this. I believe He was teaching me a lesson—worshiping nature is NOT His will. And I was worshiping the creation, and not the Creator. Oh, I would tell myself, “Isn’t this just beautiful, what God has created.” But how many hours were literally being STOLEN from God while I worked feverishly in my beautification obsession? Many, many, many hours.

Pagans worshiped nature. Pagans worshiped idols. Pagans worship planets and moons and everything that God created in some form…but they do not worship GOD. They worship their gods. Other gods. Anything OTHER than the true God.

I know it sounds silly, but I can almost imagine those Mighty Hands rubbing together and dusting the dirt off after laying that tree on the ground. Maybe this is not what happened at all. Maybe I am making a mountain out of a mole hill and it was simply a weak tree. Even so, I believe there was a message in this for me.

I cannot create Heaven on earth. I have tried, believe me, I have tried. There is nothing I look forward to more than walking into God’s benevolence and seeing His Heaven. There is nothing more beautiful that I can imagine—creation as God planned it, finally restored. And one uprooted willow tree is one less thing for me to be attached to, here on this planet.

“Lay not up for yourself, treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves, treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor dust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Clearly, when we make our treasures of things on earth, we are distancing ourselves from our heavenly home and this is where our hearts should be. I think the Lord was making a cut and dry case for this, or this is how I see it now.

The Lord’s Word is very clear about what and Whom we are to be focusing on as we journey through our lives as Christians. As a believer in the soon Rapture of the Church, I wake every day knowing that Jesus could call us Home soon and maybe all this overzealous gardening is an escape from the darkness in the world.

But I learned a simple lesson this week. Even though I didn’t THINK I was worshiping anything but God and His creation, I was. I know it now. I’m humbled and repentant. Repentant you say? Yes. Wouldn’t it be a bit defiant to grow another tree from the start, and plant it? Wouldn’t that be a bit like telling God, “Huh, I’ll show you!”? So that idea went in the burn pile, too. I am not going to “rebuild.” Which leads to another lesson—always be content and thankful for what you have.

Speaking of symbolism and trees…our property had nearly 30 pine trees when we bought it…all of which have systematically died in the past 10 years, one by one, and we are left with two which will be gone by the end of this summer. What symbolism is that? My so-called “perfect” landscape is never perfect—there is death and dying in the background, everywhere I look. Symbolic of our world? I think so. Always a blemish…always sadness…never complete and utter utopia. Not in this life, no matter how hard we try.

So I’m ready for my next lesson because I want to please the Lord when I come into His kingdom. I want my life to have had meaning and value for His kingdom. I want my works in this life to have made a difference to somebody else in His kingdom. I don’t want to have ANYTHING come between myself and my King. Certainly not a silly tree.

The landscape is not the same without that magnificent specimen…and maybe that is the lesson in the willows. Nothing here will ever be perfect or lasting. That grandeur is saved for our Heavenly Eternal Home. Thank You, Father, for that promise. And thank You for our Blessed Hope, Jesus Christ.

Camilla Smith