It’s not how others see you, or even how you see yourself, that is most important.
What really matters is how God sees you, the beauty he sees in you, and the worth he places in you.
She began life, like any other tree, as a small seed in the shade of her mother’s branches. To start with she wasn’t aware of her surroundings: in the autumn her mother covered her, and her brothers and sisters, with a thick blanket of leaves to keep them warm through winter. It wasn’t till spring that she realised there was a world above waiting for her.
As the warmth of the sun filtered down through fresh green leaves she slowly lifted her head and saw, for the first time, the beauty around her.
For her first few years she enjoyed herself, growing up with friends and relatives in the peace of their undisturbed forest. Once in a while the wind would rustle through leaves and branches telling stories of things long past.
She loved to hear tales of the trees from years ago, right back to the day when God had first planted a beautiful garden . She loved especially to be told, again and again, of the splendour and majesty of those first trees.
Her favourite was the tree that had been called the Tree of Life. It was one of earliest of those trees and it grew tall beside a river in the centre of the garden . Every month it bore fruit that was good to eat and its leaves, which never withered, could be used to heal all sorts of diseases . In fact the fruit was so good that anyone who ate it would live forever !
The tree was so special to God, the wind said, that it was guarded by angels and a sword that burned . The wind said it was the most beautiful tree he’d ever seen and our little tree would dream for hours at a time of seeing it for herself.
As time went by, however, things started to go wrong. As the years passed, all the trees round about started growing the leaves, flowers and fruit of their own family, but our little friend didn’t look like any of the trees round about.
No flowers or fruit grew on her, her leaves were dull and brown, and instead of a nice wrinkly bark she was covered in splinters. To start with no-one seemed to notice but slowly, over the years, all the trees she had been friends with started to grow away from her.
The wind too started to avoid her; she often heard the wind whispering to the other trees about how bad our tree must be to be punished like this . She never felt a cooling breeze as she stood, alone, beneath the baking sun. She longed to just cool her roots but even the nearby stream became more and more distant.
As the years passed, she stood alone and forgotten in a large clearing wishing she could be like the other trees. Sometimes she would daydream, pretending to be the beautiful Tree of Life, but when the dreams came to an end, as they always did, she would feel even more lonely and unhappy.
Then one day a rumour started spreading through the forest that men had found the trees and were chopping them down. In fact the rustlings grew so loud that even our tree heard about it, but rather than being afraid she almost wished the men would come and chop her down and throw her on a fire to burn .
Weeks passed without any sign of the men, till one spring morning the sound of marching could be heard echoing through the forest. The sound came closer and closer until at last a band of men marched into the clearing.
On seeing the tree they started teasing her and pulling off her branches. Finally they took out axes, chopped her down and dragged her away through the forest.
In pain and agony the tree was brought to a large city where she was split down the middle and left, outside the city walls, exposed to the baking sun. Trees take a long time to die, and she was left for about a week as she felt the strength drain from her.
Then something happened … she was dragged down into the city and someone picked her up. Although the person was weak he seemed to possess a peace that was passed on into the tree. As the aches and pains melted away she realised she was being carried back out of the city.
For one terrible moment the person carrying her tripped and nearly fell, but then the tree became aware of a second person helping. Between them the two people carried her to the top of a hill where she was laid in the grass where something strange and horrible happened. The first person lay down upon her and great nails were hammered through hands and feet into the wood. A feeling of intense agony filled the tree, made more acute as she was lifted upright and planted with a jolt into the ground. And, even though it was the middle of the day, the sky turned darker and darker, like it does when a storm is coming .
Then the feeling of peace returned, stronger than before. The sharp agony of the nails was blunted and she suddenly became aware that the nails weren’t carrying any weight! The body of the man was still there, but held to her by … what?
All she could feel now was a sense of peace and … yes, and love as well! The man was being held to her by cords of love, wrapping her with feelings she hadn’t felt since she was very young.
She became aware that the man was speaking; not out loud, but to her. The voice was saying, “Don’t be sad, be happy; today you will be with me in heaven . I chose you, before the world was even made , to bear me as you would the fruit you never had . To most people and trees out there we are nothing, but they’ll soon know how wrong they are. Poor misguided people; they have rejected me just as the trees rejected you. We were both born for a purpose – I to die to save the world, and you to bear me as your fruit. Look at your inner beauty and see yourself as you really are.”
Our tree believed him, and as she did the sky got lighter and lighter . And the tree looked at herself and saw, not the rough wood and splinters of the past, but splendour and majesty.
“Yes,” the voice continued, “you are the Tree of Life. But now the time has come; I have won the battle I was sent to fight and men can once more know their God and find a new inner beauty like yours. The battle is over, it is finished!”
With that triumphant cry Jesus died, and the light that had gradually been growing brighter suddenly turned to a brilliant, shining gold. The tree felt as though she were planted again, but this time by a stream of living water  that flowed right through her until leaves and fruit appeared on her branches; different fruit to eat every month of the year and leaves that would heal all the nations in the world .
Finally everything she had always wanted had come true .
© 2014 Jonathan Hansford