Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Real or Artificial?

As I sit here this morning, I must confess that I am sitting beside my Christmas tree. Yes, it is January 15th and our tree still stands tall in the living room.  I did manage to take the ornaments off two days ago, but the lights are still strung and it is starting to take on a stale presence in the room.  By now you've probably presumed that this tree is indeed artificial, otherwise it's needles would surely be in a pile on the floor by now.  But you would not know to look at this tree that it has never had a life-giving source.

Many years ago, we decided to take advantage of after-Christmas sales and get a fake tree.  This was a huge sacrifice for me because I thrive on the whole experience of taking the family out to a tree farm and cutting down the perfect tree with our own saw - often a pain-staking event for my husband as finding "the one" could take quite some time.  In exchange of this experience, a fake tree would have to meet some pretty tough standards to make it into our home.  And so, we found a tree that passed the test.  Now, each year it is quite a chore to put this tree up because it was before the days of pre-lit branches  or trees that open at the push of a button or that come in two pieces and can be stored easily between seasons.  It has to be put together branch by branch and each stem must be "fluffed" and adjusted to pull off the deception of realness.  When friends come over at Christmastime, they're amazed that our tree is indeed artificial.  And this, of course, causes my heart to smile.

As I was stringing lights and hanging ornaments on the tree this year, my thoughts went to how much our lives can be like decorating a Christmas tree.  We shower to keep our bodies smelling clean.  We style our hair to keep from looking unkempt. We put make-up on to conceal our flaws. We put on clothes to hide our nakedness. We add jewelry to give just the right touch.  We put on smiles to mask our true feelings.  Some go a greater distance and add more permanent effects like tattoos or piercings in places that cause the rest of us to cringe.  We put on an air of confidence to cover our fears and insecurities.

We put a lot of energy and expense into our appearance and trying to look like the real deal, but what's really going on on the inside?  Are we drained of energy?  Are we at war with low self-esteem and worthlessness?  Are we weighted down with bitterness and unforgiveness?  Do we have a stinky attitude?  Are our relationships crumbling?  Are we wrestling with sinful behaviors and addictions?
Do our lives mirror the truths we claim?

As I think of the task before me in disassembling the tree, I realize there are some things in my life that may need to be uprooted, some branches that may need to be removed that aren't bearing fruit. I also realize that the pruning process is not always pleasant and can, in fact, be painful.  But I want to be authentic.  I don't want my life to be a grand charade.  I want to be relentless in my pursuit of deeper intimacy and a closer walk with Jesus - Giver of life and peace and joy.  Unlike our artificial tree that will never have the fragrance of fresh pine, I want my life to exude a fragrance of grace and love and acceptance.

I want my Father's heart to smile when He looks at me.

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