Growing up on a small farm in rural Washington, we had many varieties of trees–pine, cherry, weeping willow. But the tree I spent the most time with was the lone apple tree in our front pasture. I’m not sure why there was only one tree out there. Why didn’t they plant more? Why didn’t they cut it down? Certainly, there was no need for a single fruit-bearing tree in a huge field.
Whatever the reason for its existence, that lonely apple tree became my thinking place. I would run out through the mown lawn of our front yard, contort my way through our barbed wire fence, and follow the path to my tree. There was a crook at just the right height so that I could do a little jump, get my arms into the space, and then lift my elementary-aged body onto the trunk. Off to my right was a perfect branch for sitting. As my feet dangled and the wind created its song in the leaves, my mind would wander.
Such leisure. No agendas. No plans. Just time. Time for thinking, for daydreaming, for watching leaves dance in the wind. Was I solving any world issues? Hardly. But that kind of small town, small farm living is still inside me. It longs to come out and play like the younger version of myself making her way to the apple tree.
This week I was teaching a group of pastors in a retreat setting in the mountains. My subject was Presence. I began my session with a pair of verses that I use to calm myself down. You see, for me, speaking in front of people is not the same as sitting carefree on the branch of an apple tree.
I found these verses last year as I was seeking to calm myself down before speaking to another group. (Do you notice a pattern here)?
So since we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t. (Romans 12:5, MSG)
Love one another from the center of who you are… (Romans 12:9, MSG)
I now use these verses most every time I speak to a group. I remind myself to be who I am, without qualification. I get to be exactly who I was made to be. And I get to love those in front of me from the center of who I am. What a treat. What a privilege!
This is an Unhurried Living way of serving. I serve from my authentic self and I love from the center of that place. So much freer than trying to pretend I am something I am not and trying to impress those I am teaching.
I prefer authenticity and love over pretending and impressing.
If you are suffering from any kind of situational anxiety today, remind yourself that you are loved, that you get to be exactly who you are, and that you can love from the center of your deepest place. You, too, do not have to pretend or impress. You can give your best and leave the outcomes to God.
Just for today, let your inner self be shaded by the lush branches of an apple tree, with your feet dangling and the leaves singing. Borrow the simplicity of a child enjoying all the time in the world. Your Eternal Father has such time and that means you do too.
P.S. Purchase our new online course, Encountering God in Scripture: Guided Prayers in the Psalms. Alan gently guides you as you pray through ten different Psalms. Included are prayers for challenging times, soul rest, brokenness & failure, entrusting our work, and more.