There are a variety of trees outside my window, I am too lazy to know all their names, but enjoy looking at them and, depending on weather, sitting beneath them. I notice when looking out at them that they are not all the same, even the ones that are clearly the same species look as different from each other as any two people can. They can be older and craggy looking or younger and velvety looking, they can be so straight you marvel at how it could be possible, and they can be so crooked you stand amazed that they are still in one piece how does it handle wind, snow? How come it doesn’t tilt and fall???
We don’t hold this against the trees—well maybe a forester looking to make a buck selling Swedish furniture might:) in fact, more and more of us are trying to protect them, regardless of their individual story. We mostly accept that trees are trees and they end up looking how they look. Mostly we accept that their bodies represent the journeys they have been on. Some have had and “easy ride” and headed straight to the canopy top, others have had a harder more winding path. Their bodies literally tell us stories about the exact location they find themselves and, if we open them up and look at the rings, they tell us about the years in most important ways.
Many of our bodies are the same: they tell a story of how we have come to be here now. Some of us—looking for money—will judge other bodies and make suggestions for improvements etc. but—when we are at our best—most of us just accept that our bodies tell stories of where we have been and honor each other in that. Some of the story is sad, some of it is hard, some of it joyful, all of it is simply part of how we have come to be where we are. Some bodies show more wear and tear than others, we mostly know that everyone has had a time of it.
When we analyze the tree, hindsight is sort of 20/20, we can explain plenty about how it came to be exactly how it is, its environment being relatively static it tells us plenty.
When we analyze our lives the same holds true. We might fall into a sort of fatalism or victimhood because of this. We may go another route and recognize the courage, perseverance and fight involved in getting here now. One confusing element for many of us is that our environment is much less static than the trees’ and does not offer us (or those who would judge us) as clear indications explaining how we came to be how we are. When the bible says every hair on your head is counted I believe part of the implication that that God sees that whole story and honours you in it.
Can we look at one another with the benefit of the doubt? The person in front of us is just like us even if they look different and have clearly been on a different journey. They have persevered, been courageous, worked hard, tried hard, been lazy and had easy years, and been shocked by hard years, experienced fortuitous events and terrible ones. Just like you. It’s all part of the story.
The diversity of it all is part of how God designed the world.
Can we accept the results as beautiful?
Can we see the tenacity within and marvel that we haven’t all fallen down in the wind? That’s how God sees us.
Can we stand in awe of each other? Embrace each other? Jesus embraces us as a mother hen.
Can we protect each other regardless of what our body says about our story thus far?
I believe this begins with grace and forgiveness and it begins with seeing ourselves with this sort of generous lens. I know the media is full of confident people who might do well to be taken down a peg or two, but my life is mostly filled with people who could use the opposite, building up.
If you are struggling these days you are not alone.
If you are struggling these days and looking to all the various places we tend to look, the places paying big money to get our attention, and that is not working, might I suggest you look to the one who brought you into being and declares his love for you, who knows the hairs on your head, who knew you before you born? He is waiting to tell you that you look majestic and mighty and just like you are supposed to after the life you have lived and that He will be with you as you continue to reach for the sky, whatever the looks like for you.
Sit quietly, maybe even under a frozen tree, and you just might hear him calling.