Do good, O Lord, to those who are good, and to those who are upright in their hearts! But those who turn aside to their crooked ways the Lord will lead away with evildoers! Peace be upon Israel! Psalm 125:4-5
Just as I suspected, we WERE among the last people in the city to purchase our fresh from the frozen north Christmas tree. The tree lot looked like the side of an over-lumbered forest. Broken branches lay scattered on the ground, overlooked by tree-foraging families bent on festive frenzy. As I looked around the bleak lot, I contemplated—briefly—the possibility of gathering the scrawny outcasts and twining them together to create a semblance of a tree.
I was shopping with my ‘get-er-done’ guy, so I didn’t have the luxury of the ‘just-looking’ murmur that usually allows me to escape a determined tree man. He found a lone tree that would do. Would do, mind you. Not the perfect tree by any means. The choices were few, so I staked out the tree while he went to find a tree man to help us.
Fortunately for us, the lot had even fewer attendants to help than trees to sell. I say fortunately because while my husband waited in the queue for someone to help us, I noticed the tree stood at an odd angle. On closer examination, not easy in a shadow-filled tree lot, I discovered the trunk was distinctly crooked, bending at an odd angle in the middle. Years of experience have led me to conclude a bent trunk cannot be manipulated or cajoled into plumb. All homegrown attempts to make it appear straight in the living room would take hours of finagling and would ultimately be unsuccessful.
The specter of hours trying to right a crooked tree was enough to make my ‘hunt, shoot, bag and drag it home’ husband ready to do a little more shopping. Off we drove to find another lot where we joyfully purchased the perfect 2013 tree.
Bent trees have no control over the way they grow. The same is not true of people.
We were created in God’s image, yet we strayed from his ways. He showed us a straight path and we promptly left it to explore other avenues. With love, he pursued us, calling us to return to him. When it was apparent to everyone that humans would never be able to live according to God’s laws on their own, he offered salvation through his son and ongoing peace through his Spirit.
Still many repeatedly choose a bent and crooked life. Like the tree we left behind tonight, they will never be upright—not because they can’t, but because they won’t.
God’s heart is that none should perish, but that all should repent. He stands ready to offer forgiveness and restoration. Our part is to pray for those who are headed down a crooked path and speak truth to them when God leads us to do it.
It isn’t as easy to walk away from a person who isn't upright as it is to abandon a bent and crooked tree.