If you’ve ever had a “live” Christmas tree decorating your house for Christmas, you know that a tree will hold its needles for only so long. You can water the base of the tree, but it will only keep it flourishing for so long. Eventually, the needles turn brown and fall off. The sap begins to run, and the tree will finally die. Then we take it to the curb for disposal.
But what about that time in between the tree being cut down and finally dying? We take it into our living room, stick it in a stand, and decorate it with ornaments and tinsel and lights. We make it look as rich and beautiful as we can, only to throw it away a month later. Cutting a tree from its source of life and making it look good for a season, in the end, accomplishes little else than seasonal beauty.
It might seem silly to think of yourself as a Christmas tree, but is it far off? Away from God, we can survive only for a time before we perish in the dry air of consumerism. The things that make a Christmas tree beautiful are the color of its needles, the way the branches fall, its fragrance, and the texture of its bark. Cut the tree down and all that eventually goes away. The underground water supply livens the tree’s roots. The root system gives the tree its strength, the rich soil that holds the roots all together, nourishing and securing the trunk and limbs. The tree needs the underground source to make it beautiful to the world. Its beauty emerges because of the inner work.
It’s the same for us. The very essence of our being comes from within. But when something other than God defines us, we reduce ourselves to Christmas trees, beautiful on the outside, perched on our stands, while dying inside. For some of us, our root systems scare us. Our insides are mangled by past mistakes and feelings of insecurity. These emotions confuse us, making it difficult to find our true selves. It’s easier to put on our tinsel and lights and walk around looking good.
Our culture has tried to define us by what we see on the outside. But it can’t erase the moments of self-doubt. We need to feel loved and known for who we are on the inside. Ultimately only God can do that.