Burl on Tree Trunk.
Image by Evelyn Simak, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY SA-2.0

Sometimes there can be magic hidden within the most unlikely of places.

Take tree burls, for instance (or burrs, to our British friends).

These rounded, knotty growths found on tree trunks can seem very ugly.

Burls form when the tree is under some kind of stress, causing bud growth cells to develop in an abnormal way. Such stressors might include bacteria, viruses, fungi, insect infestations, or wounds. A burl is visible evidence of how the tree is dealing with these attacks.

They look rather like tumours, and mar the otherwise regular pattern of the bark.

Surely there’s nothing good about burls?

But there is.

Their unsightly exterior hides magnificence.

Few people know that inside these contorted and gnarled outgrowths is concealed something wonderful. The wood that burls yield is unusual and highly figured, making it valued and sought after by woodworkers and artists.

This unique wood is prized for its beauty and rarity, and is often used for veneers or inlays in fine furniture, trim or panelling inside luxury cars, and for household objects like bowls or pens, which become works of art.

Do you have a few “burls” in your life? Some knotty problems that have grown into a tangled mess?

Wonder if God could ever bring something good out of them?

He can!

Like buds thwarted from becoming branches, maybe you’ve had dreams that were stillborn, suffocated by circumstances before they had a chance to grow. Perhaps you’ve had plans that were never able to come to fruition, through no fault of your own.

Maybe you’ve had to deal with unwanted intrusions into your life. Hardships you never asked for, addictions that took hold of you, or attacks on your health, family or finances. These things “stick out,” conspicuous by how they clash with what you expected your life to be like, and obvious for anyone to see.

But how you’ve dealt with these disappointments or hardships through God’s grace can turn into something beautiful.

If you’ve kept trusting in God during your trying times, He can use these unwanted episodes to solidify your faith and resolve. Just like the wood inside the burl: the grain there is more compact, resulting in a harder, stronger wood.

Regular wood grain is beautiful, to be sure, but there’s something special about the grain of burl wood. It’s totally unique—the patterns and colours are never repeated. In the same way, God can bring out rich colours and depths to your character when you trust in Him during the trials of your life, making you uniquely qualified to help others who are going through the same ordeals.

Venetian Chest of Drawers in Walnut and Burl.
Image by Umberto Avico on Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The grain inside burls is swirling and intricate. Likewise, your faith and the stressors you face become interwoven into a complex pattern of grace and grit, a thing of rarity and value that wouldn’t have arisen if your life had taken a more straightforward path.

But burl wood is notoriously hard to work; it can shatter unexpectedly on the lathe. It takes a true expert to fashion something out of it.

Likewise, the key to dealing with the “burls” in your life is to leave them in the hands of the Master Craftsman. Let God make something beautiful out of them. Trust Him to bring out the intricacies of the grain, the complexities of the pattern and to highlight the warmth and lustre of the wood.

One last lesson about burls: as they age along with the tree, their colours and patterns become even richer. As you age, the pattern of your life over the long term will become even more glorious as God works all things together for good.

What God does with your life will captivate others: they’ll want to know who fashioned such beauty out of the messy tangle of your trials.

Tell them about the Master Craftsman, who can redeem the worst of situations, and bring beauty out of the most unexpected places.

“To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the LORD has planted for his own glory.”

Isaiah 61:3

© 2021 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.

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