By LaWanda Bailey
Two branches—one split from a tree in the city, and one on the ground in the country—taught me some lessons about my walk with God.
- The Storm and the Branch
Out of nowhere, an early spring storm blew up and bullied its way through our church grounds. The cross on top of the steeple tilted sideways, pointing eastward like a weather vane. Loose shingles from the roof dotted the front lawn. The large pear tree that shaded the entrance to the parking lot stood wounded, one of its sturdy branches almost torn from the trunk. The broken limb slanted into the ground and clung to the tree with a shred of wood and bark.
As we gathered to clean the property, we discussed the pear tree. The deacons agreed that someone needed to bring a handsaw and take the limb down, but it never happened. The injured branch remained there, braced between tree and ground, until we hardly noticed it anymore.
When we pulled into the church parking lot on Easter Sunday morning, we were surprised to see the broken branch covered in blooms. "We thought it was dead all this time," someone said. Others shook their heads in wonder that a limb barely connected to a tree could produce blooms. Yet the proof was there: a damaged limb sporting a stairway of blossoms from the ground to the tree trunk. The pastor worked it into his sermon: "I am the vine, and you are the branches. If you stay joined to me, and I stay joined to you, then you will produce lots of fruit. But you cannot do anything without me" (John 15:5 CEV).
To this day, none of us can remember anything about the blooms on nearby trees, but almost every Easter, someone at church mentions the beauty of that broken branch.
My grandfather was a quiet man who knew how to spin a yarn. One evening, he looked at us kids and said, "You may not believe this, but today when I was in the woods, I heard something thrashing around. I walked toward the noise, hoping it wasn't a wild boar. Guess what I found? A branch that was so crooked it couldn't be still." We laughed at his outlandish story. Decades later, Granddad told me another story about a branch, but this time it was true. He's been gone a long time, but I'll tell his story the way I remember it.
- The Old Man and the Branch
Granddad farmed in the East Texas red dirt his entire life, all but the two years he served in the Army during World War I. At 85, he still loved his modest country home surrounded by endless miles of piney woods.
At dusk one evening, he walked down the steps by the kitchen door. As he surveyed his garden, he stood on top of a fallen branch. Before he could move, the branch wiggled. Startled, he looked down and saw that he was standing on a big chicken snake.
Long past his jumping days, my grandfather bent his knees and shot into the air like a high school long-jumper. The snake, equally stunned, was last seen slithering south. As Granddad told and retold the story, he always ended it with, "You never know how far you can jump till you have to."
- Lessons I learned from branches:
I should hang onto God with whatever loose ends I have left.
Brokenness doesn't mean it's all over.
The temptation I'm standing on is probably bad for me.
When I can't control my thoughts, I can control my feet.
I never know how far I can jump until I have to.