I must admit, I am a selfish being. As I am walking through a time of discipline, trials and pain, all I can focus on is me. I feel like I am in the midst of a forest, barefoot, stepping on thorns and bristles, tired, alone, hungry. Somewhere there is a light and I can discern the forest from the trees.
Even when I am taking these things to God, and praying, or in the Word, my mind comes back to all these little lies, about myself, and I lose focus on what's really big, and what, in my mind is just grandiose. I want to forget myself, and remember, again, that there is something so much bigger than me. The God who loves me. Please God, help me to see You more and me less!
Something that encouraged me in this challenge today, was the story of Anne Frank and her beautiful chestnut tree. Anne Frank was just a young girl, when her family was forced into hiding, from the Nazi's. She was still a young woman when she died of typhus in a concentration camp. Yet, her diary, and her life have inspired countless numbers of people, myself included. Her optimism, as seen through her poignant writings, is positively inspirational.
In her time spent hiding in a musty old attic, Anne drew inspiration and comfort from a chestnut tree that was just visible outside her window. It's presence gave her hope and solace, as she expressed when she said
"Nearly every morning I go to the attic to blow the stuffy air out of my lungs, from my favorite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky and the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, and at the seagulls and other birds as they glide on the wind. As long as this exists, I thought, and I may live to see it, this sunshine, the cloudless skies, while this lasts I cannot be unhappy"
Anne's father, Otto Frank, upon reading his daughter's diary (aren't dads not supposed to do that?? I guess we'll make an exception in this case) was greatly surprised to learn how much the tree meant to Anne. In 1968 he delivered a speech where he said
"How could I have suspected that it meant so much to Anne to see a patch of blue sky, to observe the gulls during their flight and how important the chestnut tree was to her, as I recall that she never took an interest in nature. But she longed for it during that time when she felt like a caged bird. She only found consolation in thinking about nature."
This tree, which is still standing today, is said to be the oldest in Amsterdam, at over 150 years old. It remains as a sign of hope and as a memoriam to Anne, but not for long. This beautiful horse-chestnut tree is slated to be chopped down soon. Despite the city of Amsterdam's best efforts, the tree cannot be saved from a terminal fungus and moth that is devastating it's leaves.
Anne Frank was blessed with a spirit and outlook much more positive and generous than what I have wallowed into lately. Her diary was not full of selfish thoughts about her losses, due to her circumstances. Nor was it full of lies about the whole world hating her and being out to ostracize her - for Anne that was a reality!
Here I am, immensely blessed with friends who love me, people who support me, and a ton of trees and lakes outside that I can readily walk or bike to, in the freedom of a country that has not forced me into hiding. Most of all, I know personally and can worship the Creator of all these beautiful things. He has loved me, and promised to protect my life from those who would seek to take it. This God, in whom I can implicitly trust and who offers me much more solace than the views of nature, it is He who reminds me:
"Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith" Matthew 6:26-30
I am not unlike Anne this morning. I am sitting here in the study I am blessed to have, looking out at the bare branches of a tree outside my window. As I see the bright blue sky, streaked with just a wisp of a cloud, I am marveling that Spring weather is finally here This brings me such great joy and exuberance. I would not fully appreciate the beauty of Spring, however, were it not for the darkness and cold of winter.
So, as I go through a dark and cold time in my life, I want to, I must take hope that Spring may arrive as well. I pray that the God of four seasons would not leave me in winter long, but do what work He needs to do in my life in this time, and then bring me to a place where I can grow, and shoot up, like a lily of the field.
In the meantime, I have added my very own leaf, to the interactive tree that honors Anne Frank, and her beloved chestnut tree. If you get a chance, I would encourage you to as well. It is the sounds from that site that I am enjoying listening to this morning, artificial as they might be. Birds, bells, and a slight breeze. Our God is good!
One last quote "I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people. And therefore I am so grateful to God, for giving me this gift of writing, of expressing all that is in me!" Anne Frank, March 25, 1944