I was literally shuffling through the files on my computer (can one shuffle on a computer?). I found a picture of a tree that I didn't remember saving. And it just wasn't any tree, as you can see for yourself. Its mighty, dark trunk appears to soar into the sky, its leaves surreal in their brilliance. I felt connected to this picture and placed it on my desktop screensaver.
Sometimes I find that if I'm especially drawn to an image, I sense God may be making a point in my life. And sure enough the theme of the tree continued. The evening after I found the picture, I attended a night of worship at a creative arts workshop. One of the artists painting during the worship created an image of a tree, its branches receiving fountain springs of water from below the earth as well as embracing rains pouring from the sky. Then the speaker provided a word taken from Psalm 1: They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season without fail. Their leaves never wither, and in all they do, they prosper.
What was the concept God wanted me to get?
A few days before I found the picture, I'd been on a walk. A dented piece of aluminum glinted from the dust on the road. I stopped to look and picked up the silvery object. I noted that the piece of metal had the word "volleyball" etched into it. That word sent me back in my mind to the agonizing gym classes I survived as a twelve-year-old. In those days junior high girls were required to wear gymsuits during PE. I was overweight, and when I sat down on the gym floors, rolls of fat folded over the elastic in my gymsuit. I wore glasses. I was the girl chosen last to be on teams--especially volleyball. No matter how hard I tried, I could never hit the ball with enough force to send it over the net. All the other girls groaned when I got up to serve. I dreaded PE for two years throughout seventh and eighth grades. I resigned myself to an identity of shame and humiliation. I expected the other girls to laugh at me. I thought nothing of their crude jokes about my body when we had to shower together. It was part of my existence, and I learned to tolerate it. Thank God I had a physical transformation between junior high and high school. I got contacts and grew four inches. People didn't recognize me. I joined the band. If you were in the marching band, you didn't have to take PE. I would memorize music and wear the scratchy band uniforms in the scorching Texas sun before donning another gymsuit and showering in front of girls who looked like Barbi.
And so these memories surfaced as I looked at that tree. Even though I no longer primarily connect to an identity of shame and humiliation, I often do not connect to my truest identity. If I stay with the tree imagery, I often more connect with an image of a sapling--you know that tree that is just starting out, putting down its roots, its limbs fragile. No leaves. The wind mercilessly bending it to the ground. I sensed the Lord say to me, "No you're not that sapling--not anymore. You were that at twelve. I even used those awful two years to increase your compassion for the underdog, the misfit. You know how shame feels. You know crestfallen. No, you're that tree--the one in the picture. You're the tree planted by the riverbank. You're that tree in the painting soaking up my life-giving fountains and rains from below and above. Your leaves don't wither. Your leaves are vibrant and beautiful. Your life is shade for others for all I've done in your life and what I'll continue to do. Identify with that picture. Keep it before you. Burn that image into your mind."
Then for good measure, just so I'd get it, I read this in Isaiah 41:15-16 (The Message): I, God, want to reassure you. The God who buys you back, The Holy of Israel...you'll be confident and exuberant, expansive in the Holy of Israel."
What about you? How do you believe God sees you? What images are you connecting with? What words? Ask God to give you an image of how He sees you this week. Place that picture on one of your devices--or all of them. Know he is delighted with who you are.