Climb DOWN a Tree

Written by Gary Taylor

I was in early grade school when I learned that I could climb UP the tree better than I could climb DOWN the tree. I was like that meowing cat who clawed to the heights of the tree, and almost needed the fire department to get me down.

My childhood home had a large maple tree in the backyard. I shimmied up the trunk, then stretched my arm high to grab the lowest branch.  Pulling myself up, I kept climbing, eyes up the whole time, searching for that next limb to grab, locating a large knot in the tree to gain a foot hold.  I suppose it was because I was always looking up that I didn't notice how high I had climbed.  Near the top of the wind-swayed tree, I looked down as a wave of nausea punched me in the gut.  It was an "Uh-oh, what do I do now?" moment. 

Climbing down that tree was one of the scariest accomplishments of my young life. 

I talked last Sunday about Zacchaeus climbing a tree for a fresh glimpse of Jesus.  I love that type of tree climbing - reaching up in prayer, grabbing a passage of Scripture, pulling my thoughts towards God.

But the difficult part is when I gotta climb down, so to speak, returning to the "worldly places" to apply what I glimpsed from atop the tree. 

As an example, this morning (Tuesday), I climbed into my blue leather tree (our Family Room couch), reading Numbers 11 and 12.  In that passage the Israelites angered the Lord with all their complaining, and frustrated the dickens out of Moses. 

Last Sunday I mentioned that while up in a tree our perspective changes.  The Bible word for that is "repent."  It was a perspective-changing time in the tree this morning when I saw my attitude reflected in the lives of the murmuring, discontent, complaining Israelites.

And that's where the climb down from the tree got uncomfortable.  It was the "Uh-oh, what now?" moment. 

My climb out of the tree culminated in a simple prayer: "Lord, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy on me, a grumbler and complainer."  And then I began considering ways I could express gratitude to and for the people around me.

In a tree our perspective changes, but the outward, visible change begins when our feet return to this dusty earth.  The sign of Spiritual maturity isn't how high you can climb a tree - how long you pray, how well you exegete a passage.  No, it's all about the fruit that lands at the base of the tree.

Like the sin-shortened Zacchaeus, may we climb a tree for a fresh glimpse of Jesus.

Like Zacchaeus, may we have a change of perspective.

Like Zacchaeus, may we come down out of the tree committed to live differently.

You are not alone in thinking that life-change is nerve-wracking and uncomfortable.  But it may be one of the scariest accomplishments of your life.