We have several 3rd-generation willows growing on our property. By that I mean they grew from a branch that came from a tree in my father-in-law’s yard, which in turn grew from a branch that came from a tree in his father-in-law’s yard. Three generations of our family have enjoyed trees grown from one original seed.
In our quest to raise these 3rd-generation trees, we’ve learned a thing or two. For one, the health and beauty of the original tree in no way guarantees health and beauty in its descendants. Disease, deer, rabbits, grasshoppers . . . the presence of any of these can determine whether a little branch ever makes it into a full grown tree. But more than anything else, it matters where we plant them.
My husband planted five or six of the trees around the edges of our five-acre pond. Here’s a picture of my favorite and probably the oldest of the trees which grows down by our dock. Whenever I see it, I’m reminded of the verse in Psalm 1:3 “ . . . like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither . . . .“ This tree had exactly the right environment in which to grow into a strong, mature willow.
But not all of our 3rd-generation trees are this lush and healthy. You see, my husband also wanted a few to grow in our front pasture. The soil in this area is mostly clay—hard to dig in—even harder to grow in. Below are pictures of two of our willows, each planted at the same time. The one on the right was planted in our front pasture and depends on only the intermittent Nebraska rain and snow for its moisture. The one on the left was planted beside the ever present water of our pond. See what I mean? It matters where they are planted.
When I look at these trees, I can’t help but relate them to my spiritual life. I’m more than a 3rd-generation Christian. My family tree on both sides, as far back as I can trace, is filled with fully-committed followers of Christ who served the Lord faithfully as missionaries, pastors, elders and Sunday school teachers. But their spiritual health and maturity in no way guarantees my own. Just like the trees, it matters where I’m planted.
If I plant myself daily in God’s Word, drink deeply from His wisdom, listen and follow the voice of His Spirit, then yes, I too will grow strong and fruitful. However, if I plant myself in the value system of this world, listening only to its wisdom and logic, getting only an intermittent sprinkle from God’s Word through a sermon or song, then I might grow, but only slowly like the trees trying to grow in our thick Nebraska clay. I’ll be like the Jewish Christians in Hebrews 5 who Paul said should be ready for spiritual meat, but were still in need of milk, like infants.
I don’t know about you, but I want to be the type of Christian that makes a difference in God’s Kingdom—one that is strong and healthy and bearing much fruit. Would you pledge with me to drink daily from God’s Word? To listen for His voice in the midst of your busy daily schedule? To view the world through His eyes rather than through the self-centered lens of the world around us? As a start, take a few minutes today to read through what Jesus had to say about this very subject in Mark 4:1-20 and Luke 8:4-15. I think you’ll see what I mean—it matters where you are planted.