I saw two large burls on a tree yesterday as my husband and I hiked through Buttermilk Falls State Park. This is one trail we had never been on before. As we were hiking up, the gorge dropped away to the left and the forest was to our right… all green and fragrant with living things.
There are signs everywhere:
STAY ON THE TRAIL and NO SWIMMING.
There are other signs, like a splash of white on a tree, for trail guidance, or the name of a trail:
Gorge Trail, Bear Trail, Rim Trail, Finger Lakes Trail Spur, and Lake Treman.
I wanted a photo of that 2-burl tree, so I went off the trail…a bit. It wasn’t so far I’d get lost and I’m mindful of deer ticks, but there was no brush there.
The forest ground was soft underfoot. Season after season of dropped leaves and pine needles turn to dense carpet, and all was quiet but a few birds.
It smelled rich, earthy. I felt at home.
There was no touching the 2-burls on the tree they were too high up. I would have liked to run my hand over the bumps, twists and twirls on it.
A burl is not a tree’s friend.
Somewhere along the way in the tree’s growth it became infected. It might have been some kind of stress, injury, virus or fungus that attacked it. Often the tree is attacked beneath the ground in the root system and builds up. Even there the burl is covered with dense bark.
I wondered about my life and what if people could see a burl on my physical body– how I had been attacked by something and it left me deformed.
Or worse, what if I had strayed from the God who fiercely loves me?
What if the rest of my life I had to live with the shame of an obvious burl on my human form?
Paul talked about his purpose in Colossians:
“My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
And he goes on to say:
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus, as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Col. 2:2-3,6,7 NIV
The most interesting thing about these deformed burls is that they are very highly prized as dense wood. Their grain is twisted and interlocked, and extremely dense, which makes it all the more rare. You can search on Google and find items such as small tables, bowls, and wall hangings, made from burls.
I think of you and me. We all have wild and crazy burls, but God knows them. He has gone through the battles with us. He knows every inch of our being, from before the womb.
And he still loves us.
Think about your burls in life today, and with me, thank God he never gives up on us. His plan in the beginning will be finished in his time, and we are all part of the plan. Whether we stay with him or wander away, his plan is still in place and we can do nothing to change it.
Today I’m thankful for the burl reminder that whatever I am, God is in me doing his work, and he is pleased to work in me.
Me…a small insignificant person on this big earth! I’m not a Hollywood star (thank you!), a doctor, lawyer or Indian chief. I’m just me, and not just content to be used by God, but to live in wonder.