What Bradford Pears Teach Us Loving God.
We recently returned from Synod to find one of our Bradford Pear trees in bad shape. One side of the tree had broken off--part of the trunk, a sizable branch, and numerous smaller limbs. It narrowly missed the house, but even though it landed on our car there was no damage to speak of. I spent the next couple of afternoons cutting up the debris and hauling it to the side of the road.
At first, I thought a strong wind was to blame, perhaps even a lightening strike. My neighbor corrected me. He said he had heard a crack and a heavy thud late one night. There was no wind and no rain, just a quiet summer evening. The tree had broken on its own.
Bradford Pears are vulnerable, especially as they reach maturity. They grow tremendously fast. This is part of their undoing. The Alabama Cooperative System says, “due to their combination of vigorous growth, weak wood and poor branch structure, they often begin falling apart after only 20 years.” Considering the fact that our trees were planted in the mid-eighties, I suppose this might be the first of many broken limbs to come. It's strange to me how a tree with such "vigorous growth" can be so weak and short-lived.
So what does this have to do with our worship of God? God’s Word tells us “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind” Luke 10:27 (NLT). When we love Him with one of these and not the others, our love is out of balance. My Bradford Pear is beautiful in the Spring. Its flowers fall like snowflakes and scatter along the front lawn. It grows year after year and appears to be in good health. But when a storm comes (or just a quiet summer evening), it simply can’t hold up.
We all experience exciting seasons of spiritual life. For some, it is the passionate early days of discovering one’s faith. For others it’s the week or two after summer camp or fall revival services. Maybe for others it’s the afternoon after a Sunday service when the music, message, and fellowship spoke to them in a special way. I can easily love the Lord with all my heart in these times. I can think that I’m growing.
However, without other aspects of love, such as in the giving of the mind, our passion can fail us. The seemingly dull tasks of reading Scripture or investigating theology hold us firm when our hearts fail. When we love God with our mind as well as our heart, we still grow--but we grow strong. We grow for legacy. We grow for eternity.
So, how’s your “love” today? Maybe you're a mighty Redwood, balanced and strong. You can weather the hard times when your heart is week. But many of us are like the Bradford Pear-- beautiful, flowering, and growing each season only to come crashing down in a few years. Let's let the God who is love teach us how to love: with our hearts, souls, strength, and mind.