Each one, as a good manager of God's different gifts, must use for the good of others the special gift he has received from God. (1 Peter 4:10)

Be the Tree

No, this isn’t going to be a 1980s transcendental meditation piece or some flavor-of-the-month motivational bit. Hang in there with me, and you’ll see.

The morning prayer for today in Magnificat presented me with these words from Psalm 52:

I am like a growing olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the goodness of God for ever and ever.
I will thank you for evermore, for this is your doing.
I will proclaim that your name is good, in the presence of your friends. 

 Word by word, my prayer time took me deep. Here I am, in God’s house. I’m planted here like a growing olive tree! That is, I’ve taken root. Here I have all the nourishment — light, water, food, knowledge — that I need for growth. Here I am constantly tended and cared for, cherished, my best features enhanced in all ways. Here I trust fully that all of these things will always be present for me — not just present, but abundant. There is no need for me to look for a good place to establish myself, because everything is here.

I am like a growing olive tree in the house of God. Content to stay here where my nourishment is constant, I grow and grow. And where does that take me? Think of what the olive tree was to the Jewish people: in its fruit they found food; in its oil they found a source of light, of heat, and of healing; once it had passed its useful life as a source of fruit and oil, they found its wood a source of items both useful and decorative for their homes and their daily lives.

It seems to me that if I am content to be like an olive tree growing in the house of God, and trust that I will have everything I need to grow into my best self, then I can be a source of good things to the world around me. I am, in God’s Spirit, a way for others to find nourishment, light, warmth, healing, and perhaps even things both useful and decorative in their lives.

By letting myself be and become who and what God not only made me to be but intends me to be — by trusting Him fully with that process and making myself completely available to Him — I find a wonderful vulnerability to God’s presence and His working in my life. It’s a wonderful vulnerability, because it requires me to give up my hold on all those things that I thought afforded me safety and security in this world and place my trust entirely on Someone I can’t see or touch, Whose Presence is yet no less real because I find it solely in faith.

A tree — especially an olive tree, left to its own devices, will grow quite haphazardly. A limb shoots off this way or that; another branch finds its growth impeded and thus withers, yet continues to take nourishment that other branches need for their own growth. Left alone, the tree grows without purpose and without care as to the best way to perform its function. The withered branch, taking nourishment, nevertheless produces nothing; the errant branch produces fruit that may fall into other hands or fall uselessly to the ground; some of the branches produce too many leaves and not enough fruit, depending on how these branches have used the available nourishment. Every now and then, some of the branches produce wonderful fruit.

But in the hands of the best gardener, each olive tree gets pruned and shaped to make the very best use of available nourishment, light, and water so as to produce consistent fruit; every branch has the right balance of foliage and fruit production; when a branch is no longer producing, it is pruned and what’s left finds its best use.

I think it’s that way with us. When we rely on ourselves and seek our own desires, we’re likely to grow in unreliable ways, and we won’t produce our best spiritual fruit. Oh, but when we allow ourselves to be the olive tree — to live in that wonderful vulnerability, trusting God to bring us into our best selves, allowing ourselves to depend wholly on Him for everything we need to grow and thrive; when we have our roots solidly in God’s house, we are free to let His care guide our growth. And when we exercise that freedom, oh, when we let Him have His way, then we become fruit and light and heat and decoration to everyone around us. And if that is not a reason to sing His praises, to thank Him always, and to proclaim the goodness of His name, then I don’t know what would be.

Abba, Father, let me be like that olive tree, rooted firmly in Your house and looking only to You for my care and tending and all that I need. Let me be like that olive tree, producing the fruit and oil with which I can serve You in all the ways You direct me. Let me be like that olive tree, Father, providing for all who come near it a source of good and a way to come closer to You. I trust in You, my Father — to You, I entrust my roots, my branches, my very self, in the faith and certainty that You not only know what to do with me but will, most lovingly and mercifully, lead me according to Your will. I ask this one small thing, Lord — I ask the grace to see and recognize Your will as it is done in my life. Amen.


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