What do you see when you look at a tree?
Probably the same things I do: its pleasing shape, the attractiveness of the leaves, its height, or the welcoming shade it casts. The presence of flowers, fruit, or nuts on its branches would also catch my attention.
But someone who wants to use the tree will look at it quite differently.
A woodworker will assess a tree’s trunk and branches and have a sense of the quality of wood it will bear. He or she will know which areas will produce the truest grain, and whether the core of the tree is likely to be “conky,” or decayed inside.
My grandfather could judge a tree in this way.
He could discern how the way the tree had grown and the stresses it had been exposed to would combine to make the strongest grain. He could point to the best part of the tree out of which to make an axe handle, for instance.
My grandfather and I could look at the same tree but see entirely different things. I would consider the outside, but he would look much deeper.
I think God’s vision works in the latter way.
When we look at our lives, we focus on the outward things: our career, health, relationships, possessions, and bank account.
To be sure, God is interested in those matters, too, and often graciously blesses us in those areas.
But God is most concerned with the inner workings of our life, the things we can’t see from the outside.
Things like our character: our integrity, patience, obedience, humility, and readiness to forgive.
He assesses to what extent we’re conforming to the image of His son.
We might look at our life and be disappointed. We haven’t achieved what we thought we would at this stage; we encountered unexpected setbacks or obstacles; our life isn’t as Instagram-worthy as that of others.
But God sees how He can use us.
He sees the inner strength that has developed in us through hardship.
He sees that our faith in Jesus has melted away the dross in our character and has redeemed what was tainted.
He sees that our alignment with His teachings has enabled us to grow true.
And He knows that in His hands, our life can become an effective tool to reach the hearts of others for the Kingdom.
So let’s not fret if the outward aspects of our life don’t seem to match the world’s expectations.
God is at work on the inside, and you can be sure that He’s making something beautiful!
© 2023 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.