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An old mulberry tree used to grow on my grandparents’ farm. It was the most crooked tree I’ve ever seen. It was tucked into a slope beside the small spring-fed pond and hidden behind the old log cabin that had been the original dwelling on the place. Rather than standing upright, the trunk followed the contour of the ground; only the treetop and a few sturdy branches reached toward the sky. Perhaps it was because it was out of sight of the house that it had escaped the fate of being reduced to firewood. Or perhaps it was because God knew that a dozen grandchildren would one day delight in it.
Years before, when it was a sapling, the tree must have weathered a powerful storm. The wind bent it to the ground and twisted its trunk while it was still tender and pliable. It was rooted in rich soil, always nourished by the pond water near its foot. It grew and grew until the horizontal trunk was as long as a room and wide enough for a child to stroll on. Even the youngest of the cousins could play there safely; one couldn’t fall far enough to get hurt.
The wide canopy of shiny green leaves protected us from the hot sun. In mid-summer, the hard green mulberries ripened to red, purple, and black and provided us with readymade snacks. The birds chattered impatiently as we filled our bellies with the darkest, sweetest berries. Our fingers would be stained with the juice until we were called inside at the end of the day.
There were plenty of other places to play: the broad porches on the white farmhouse, a big barn where we built forts out of hay bales, and pastures and woods with large rocks to climb. We took advantage of them all.
But to me, the mulberry tree was a special domain, my peaceful hideaway. From my perch in its sun-dappled shade, I’d listen for the throaty gunk-gunk-gunk of the frogs in the pond. I could hear the friendly, low honk of a duck and watch as it crisscrossed the dark water. I’d see it suddenly dip below the surface, leaving its white tail waving in the air, then hear the whoosh of the water as it emerged with a tiny squirming fish in its bill. The mulberry tree was a place for me to sit and dream in solitude.
But much of the time, it was a spot that rang with giggles and shouts. Together we cousins marched its length with childlike bravado. We played pretend games as we pondered its ancient secrets. That old tree held a special place in each of our hearts and memories.
The mulberry tree had little monetary value. Its gnarled, half-rotted, crooked trunk would never be hauled to a sawmill to be cut into the long straight boards necessary to build strong houses or fine furniture. It would never become a mighty mast for a ship or even a pole for electric wires.
After my grandparents died and the farm was sold, the old tree disappeared. It may have been used for firewood, or maybe it simply rotted away. It lives on in the memories of my cousins and me. That’s where its true value lies, as a beautiful remembrance of childhoods well-lived.
God works that way. He creates a myriad of things that are tall, straight, majestic, and valuable. He gives them to us to use for our good. But he values the humble and imperfect, too, whether they be trees or people. They are valued because he made them; they are his.
I find that I can be used by God even when I’m bent crooked by storms and am weathered, old, and past my prime. I am still of value to him. He promises to love me with an everlasting love. In turn, I will value those around me and do my best to demonstrate God’s love. It’s then that I can be used for his good purposes.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
1 John 4: 10-11 (NIV
by Marilyn Borga
Ohio, USA - email@example.com
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