You can separate those who celebrate Christmas into two distinct camps, those of us who prefer live Christmas trees and the lazy heathens who champion the plastic variety. Unfortunately, for the past few years, I’ve fallen into the lazy heathen camp, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. I’ve had to live with an artificial tree out of convenience and a basic desire to survive. While chasing after two young kids, my wife and I are lucky to keep the cat fed let alone taking on the responsibility of watering a tree. As much as I love the smell of evergreens, I’m not ready to torch the house over it.
But, still, I miss having a real tree. That’s why last weekend I dragged my family out to a local Christmas tree farm so we could walk around and at least pretend like we were buying a fresh pine. My girls loved it, and by the time we were finished, we walked away with a home-made wreath, which you don’t have to water nearly as much as a live tree.
Everyone went home a winner. We got the Christmas tree farm experience, the smell of fresh evergreen at our door, and we could avoid a visit from the fire department.
Of all benefits of our farm visit, though, my girls’ favorite part was seeing the tiny Charlie Brown trees that had just been planted. Most of the new crop was protected by a fence to keep kids like mine from accidentally trampling them, but that didn’t stop my oldest from wondering why she couldn’t take one home.
“They’re just not ready yet,” I explained.
“But why not?” she said.
“They’ve just been planted, “ I said. “They need more time to grow.”
This wasn’t the answer she wanted to hear. She was ready to take that tree home that day and left unsatisfied with my lame answer.
I know how she feels. The whole thing made me think of how hard it can be wait. Sometimes I view my life like my girls do those trees. I think I’m ready for things that God knows I’m clearly not mature enough to handle. I’ve always been this way, eager to tackle new challenges or jump into new relationships when really I just needed to focus on the present moment and my own personal growth.
Does this sound familiar? Have you ever wanted a promotion or a new job but kept getting overlooked? Are you ready to settle down and get married, but the right person never seems to come along? Or maybe there’s something else you’re longing for in life and you wonder, “How long am I going to have to wait?”
I’m with you, and so are those Christmas trees. Think of all they’ll have to go through before they’re finally ready to go home with some lucky family: years of growth, protected behind that fence, then sheering, pruning and shaping until some day they’re strong enough to support ornaments, lights and tinsel.
A mature Christmas tree is a beautiful thing, but they take years to grow. Same goes for a mature person. Part of my own personal growth has been learning to thank God for the waiting. In the waiting seasons I grow stronger. Unwanted parts of me are pruned away, while the healthiest and best parts of me thrive.
This is where our character is formed, and where we take one step closer to becoming the person we were created to be. This is where we gain the strength and wisdom to eventually handle of the weight of the new opportunity or relationship when it finally comes our way. At that moment we discover God’s not been holding out on us. He’s been protecting and preparing us.
Jesus called Himself the true vine, the source of all spiritual nourishment and life. He compared God to a gardener who cuts away the dead branches of our lives and prunes back the fruitful ones so that they will be even more fruitful in the end. But this pruning and waiting is painful business. True growth always is.
The only alternative to the growing pains of life is to settle for a cheap, plastic existence where we never change and grow. You already know how I feel about plastic. It’s just not the same as the real thing.
If you’re in a waiting season right now, take comfort from our friend the Christmas tree and trust in God to shape and mature you until the time is right.