It’s a little like that old familiar nursery rhyme. For whether or not the idea was indeed based upon the practice of some Native Americans to suspend their birch-bark cradles in trees, or it was instead a reference to the “tree top” or crow’s nest on British navy ships, it eventually found its way into Mother Goose’s Melody published in London in 1765.
And, based upon personal observation, I can confirm that “when the wind blows” the bough (cradle or not) will indeed break sometimes. Or at least that’s what happened to the large hackberry or celtis tree in our front yard. For following some brisk winds, one of its branches snapped this week, bringing a good part of its “deciduousness” down to the lawn.
To be sure, it’s perhaps not all that surprising for the tree is, after all, a part of the hemp or cannabaceae family which we might expect to be rather “laid back.” And admittedly, that tree has needed trimming for a good while. But I kept putting it off simply to avoid the cost and the hassle. In the end, though, the truth is that we can either trim the excesses of our lives or wait until someone else trims them for us, whether we’re ready for it or not.
Just before describing the messianic shoot of Jesse that was to come, in fact, the prophet Isaiah rather starkly suggested that God will “top off the boughs with great power,” felling the lofty trees and bringing low the tall ones (Isaiah 10.33.) And eight centuries later, St. Paul told the Romans that some of branches of God’s family tree were broken off not just to allow Gentiles like us to be grafted in, but because of their own unbelief. (Romans 11.17-24).
Most of all, smack dab in the middle of His final sermon to the disciples, Jesus proclaimed that our heavenly Father “cuts off every branch that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (John 15.2). And just as a healthy hackberry is supposed to produce fruit (berries which the birds love, by the way), so too are you and I.
Perhaps this unplanned season we are in thus is a time of pruning, designed to cut away dead or overgrown branches to encourage the growth of better ones. For people don’t simply wander into holiness nor does it happen on its own. But times like these may give us the chance to trust God and intentionally try to become more like Christ, even if it does feel a little like we’re being chopped up!
Next time we get a good wind blowing, thus, take a look at both your trees and your life. And if there’s something that’s needs pruning or even cutting out, take the steps to do so now rather than put it off any longer.
Don’t say Mother Goose didn’t warn you.