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Two Trees

by Brother Carl Birt
An Allegory

Proverbs 13:12, “…but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.”

Once when I was a young boy, I sat and watched a man come by with a wheelbarrow and shovel. I watched him over the meadowed land as he carefully picked a spot upon a grassy knoll where plenty of sunshine fell. There, he stopped and took his shovel and dug a nice round hole. Then, from a sack, he pulled a small object, which I realized was a tree. Now it wasn’t a big tree at all; it did not reach very high. When once he’d planted it, it stood about a foot tall. He paused a moment, wiped his brow with a red kerchief and looked around. Then he spotted me and waved. A few minutes later, he gathered up all and rolled his wheelbarrow back to his barn.

A week went by, and I saw the man once again visit his tree. It had not grown so much as I could see. The man pulled a clean white rag and tied it to the trunk of the tree, and then he emptied a bucket of water around its roots. Week after week, he visited the tree, and little by little, it grew. By summer’s end, it had doubled in size, and from a distance, one could clearly see it was a tree. 

The following spring, I saw the same man with his wheelbarrow and shovel. The same scene played out, as not far from the tree he planted another. By the next spring, both trees were looking good. Each had buds swelling, showing the promise of life. I saw the man come once again with his wheelbarrow and some tools. He came to the first tree and looked over it. Then he passed on by and came to the second. Reaching into his wheelbarrow, he took a long stake and a sledgehammer. He deftly drove the stake deep into the earth beside the second tree at an angle. Then he took rope, threaded it through a small scrap piece of garden hose, and looped it around the trunk, positioning the piece of hose against it as a cushion. Then he secured it, tying it to the stake. 

I walked over to see what he was doing, and the farmer said, “Hello.” 

“What kind of trees are these?” I asked. 

He smiled and replied, “Desire.” 

“What kind of a tree is that?” 

“Desire,” he explained, “is a tree of life.” 

“It is?” I asked. “Then why the stake?” 

“The stake is Christ. The rope is faith.” 

I wondered at why he did not stake the first tree, as he did the second but did not have the courage to ask. 

The following spring, I noticed the two trees blossom, and later that fall, each had one or two tiny apples. Year after year, I watched the man and his two trees. Soon they were taller than me. The one that was staked grew straight, while the other began to lean a little to the east. Storms came. Strong winds blew and rain fell. The leaning seemed to increase. Then one early spring day, he came by with a saw and a long-handled tool he called pruning shears. I watched him as he stopped and carefully studied the trees. Then with great care of selection, he began to cut and lop branches from the staked tree. Then he took his shovel and dug around it. The unstaked tree he paid no mind to, and I wondered why.

Over the next two summers, I watched as the staked tree grew and became a beautiful tree. In the fall, the harvest of apples got bigger and bigger. While the other tree now appeared ugly and misshapen, its fruit (if you could call it that) was small, few, and covered with blotches from worms.

I am grown now, but I remember the lessons these two trees taught me. I have seen many a life left to itself, the desires run unchecked, and the destruction of a once pure young life. But I, like the second tree, was staked at a young age to Christ. My chords of faith tethered me close to Him, and my roots grew stronger through the storms of life.