by Sherry Bitler
In Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.
John 16:33 ESV
In our small development, there is only one intersection with a stop sign that is the entrance and exit to the main road. At the time the development was constructed, the builder had planted a tree line across the street for aesthetics. I have enjoyed each season as I have looked at this view. The warm green branches feel encouraging as they herald spring, I enjoy how they glisten in the summer, how they bend gently in the fall, and how they hold the white snow in the winter. These stately evergreens have grown nicely through the years. That is, until a storm left its mark. One tree was broken in half and the top, now completely dead, but still connected, hovers toward the ground. Dead pine needles and debris create ugliness in the otherwise healthy green border.
For some reason, this creates angst in me every time I brake at the stop sign. I realize in the grand scheme of life, this is a small concern, yet my ‘fixer’ personality responds to this view with a sigh. I think, if this were my property, I would remove the dead tree, hoping to restore the beauty of the tree line. Like magnets, my eyes are drawn to the damaged tree, instead of the healthy trees.
When the storm first broke this tree, my original thoughts started, “the poor tree, broken by the harsh winter winds”. Then my thoughts changed to, “why doesn’t the homeowner notice this damaged tree and try to clean it up?” Before long, I reasoned that, “perhaps this is an insurance issue and there is a process to be completed.” As time continued to pass, it was taking more energy to muster up a spiritual response to the lack of attention. Then my thoughts concluded, “Doesn’t anyone care enough to report this and have the development maintenance committee handle the situation?” Finally, waves of irritation hit me.
I have earned a reputation for “getting things done” (sometimes being relentless). It worked well for me as an employee in the work force, but added to my angst over this tree! I felt feeling powerless to resolve this broken tree issue. I mentioned the irritation to my husband who faithfully keeps our yard beautifully manicured. I suggested a solution! I asked if he would consider helping me clear it out. He laughed, reminding me that we would be trespassing and could possibly get arrested.
As time has passed, and I reflect back on that situation, I realize the problem was not the damaged tree. The problem was me. I was the one who was allowing this situation to cause discontent. I believe it was a life lesson for me as I was realizing this principal in such a practical way. My lack of ability to “fix it” was not just about this tree. There are hundreds of little things that can cause irritation in this broken world. The lesson I learned is that my “fixer” personality, cannot fix or control “some” things. It is in those moments that I need to look upward, and place those concerns in God’s hands with an attitude of gratefulness.
Recently I was reading a book, Sammy and His Shepherd by Susan Hunt to some children. Perhaps I was really reading it to myself, because when I read Susan’s words; “there are no offending sheep, only offended sheep…” I knew the Lord wanted to transform my whining heart into a grateful one. I can let irritants create negative thoughts or I can be grateful for the many blessings I enjoy. I can set my eyes on the healthy trees and accept that this dead tree is only a problem if I make it one. Do you have any “dead trees” driving you nutty and draining your heart of gratitude? Ask the Lord to forgive your whiny spirit and replace it with a heart that “lives gratefully.”
Lord, please empower me to remember the promises in Your Word. I am grateful for the promise that you care about even the little things in my life. Help me to not let those little things, steal my attention from the good things. Create a change in me and help me to focus on the positive parts of my life. Help me to overcome the negative thoughts, for I want to choose to live gratefully.
Sherry Bitler is the founder of a local traditional Christian School, a home school cooperative school, and a summer program for children at a popular Christian Conference Center. She is spiritual mother to hundreds of young women. Challenged by her daughter-in-law, she began writing a blog, The Grateful Grammie, several years ago as part of her legacy to her grandchildren. She loves time with her husband of 47 years, their four children, their spouses, and twelve grandchildren. Sherry shares more about living with Multiple Sclerosis in this interview: When MS is Your Constant Companion.