THE USELESS TREE

A carpenter and his apprentice were walking together through a large forest. And when they came across a tall, huge, gnarled, old, beautiful oak tree, the carpenter asked his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so tall, so huge, so gnarled, so old and beautiful?” The apprentice looked at his master and said: “No…why?”

“Well,” the carpenter said, “because it is useless. If it had been useful it would have been cut long ago and made into tables and chairs, but because it is useless it could grow so tall and so beautiful that you can sit in its shade and relax.”

Source: Henri NouwenOut of Solitude
(Ave Maria Press, 1974, 2004), pages 26-27

CONSIDER THIS

The world says, “If you are not making good use of your time, you are useless.” Jesus says: “Come spend some useless time with me.” If we think about prayer in terms of its usefulness to us—what prayer will do for us, what spiritual benefits we will gain, what insights we will gain, what divine presence we may feel—God cannot easily speak to us. But if we can detach ourselves from the idea of the usefulness of prayer and the results of prayer, we become free to “waste” a precious hour with God in prayer. Gradually, we may find, our “useless” time will transform us, and everything around us will be different.

Prayer is being unbusy with God instead of being busy with other things. Prayer is primarily to do nothing useful or productive in the presence of God.

From Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit (pages 17, 18).

 

 

THE LITTLE NAIL

As the story goes, a new church was built and people came from far and wide to see it, and admire its beauty. Up on the roof of the church, a little nail heard the people praising everything about the lovely new structure, except the nail. No one even knew he was there and he became very angry and jealous.

‘If I am that insignificant, nobody will miss me if I quit!’

So the nail released its hold of the roof shingle it had been holding in place, then slid down the roof and fell into a muddy patch of ground.

That night it rained and rained, and the wind blew hard. Soon, the shingle that had no nail holding it in place blew away and the roof began to leak. The water streaked the walls and the beautiful murals. The plaster began to fall off the walls, the carpet was stained and the pulpit was badly damaged. All this because a little nail decided to quit.

Source | Unknown

PONDER AND CONSIDER

Reflect on the little  nail for a while.  While holding the shingle, it was obscure, but it was also very useful. Buried in the mud it was just as obscure, but now it was of no use and would soon by eaten up by rust.

Remember that like the nail, no matter how small you think you are, you have an important role to play in society.

THE STORY OF BAMBOO

Once upon a time in the heart of the Western Kingdom lay a beautiful garden. And there in the cool of the day the Master of the garden liked to walk. Of all the creatures of the garden, the most beautiful and most beloved was a gracious and noble bamboo tree. Year after year Bamboo grew yet more noble and beautiful, conscious of her Master’s love and watchful delight, but always modest and gentle.

And often, when the wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would cast aside her grave stateliness to dance and play merrily, tossing and swaying and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon, leading the Great Dance  of the Garden,  which delighted the Master’s heart.

Now one day the Master sat down to contemplate his Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy, Bamboo, in a passion of adoration,  bowed her great head to the ground in loving greeting. The Master spoke: “Bamboo,  I would use you.”

Bamboo flung her head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had come, the day for which she had been made, the day to which she had been growing, hour by hour, the day in which she would find her completion and her destiny. Her voice came softly:  “Master, I am ready. Use me as you will!”

“Bamboo,”  – the Master’s voice was grave, “I would like take you and cut you down.”

“Cut … me … down! Me, whom you, Master, have made the most beautiful in all your garden … cut me down! Not that, not that. Use me for your joy, O Master, but cut me not down!”

“Beloved Bamboo,” – the Master’s voice grew graver still –  “if I do not cut you down, I cannot use you. 

The garden grew still … Wind held his breath. Bamboo slowly bent her proud and glorious head. There came a whisper: “Master, if you cannot use me unless you cut me down … then … do your will and cut!”

“Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I need to cut your leaves and your branches from you also.”

“Master, Master, please spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust, but would you  also take from me my leaves and branches?”

“Bamboo, if I do not cut them away, I cannot use you.”

The Sun hid his face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. And Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low, “Master, cut away.”

“Bamboo, Bamboo, I would also split you in two and cut out your heart, for if I don’t  I cannot use you.”

Then was Bamboo bowed to the ground: “Master, Master … then cut me and split me.”

So did the Master of the garden took Bamboo and cut her down and hacked off her branches and stripped off her leaves and cleaved her in two and cut out her heart. And lifting her gently, he carried her to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of his dry fields. Then putting one end of broken Bamboo into the spring and the other end into the water channel in his field, the Master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo. The clear sparkling water raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo’s torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted and the days went by, and the shoots grew, and the harvest came.

In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in her stately beauty, yet more glorious in her brokenness and humility. For in her beauty she was life abundant, but in her brokenness she became a channel of abundant life to her Master’s world!

Source | Daniel O’Leary, Year of the Heart: A Spirituality for Lovers, (Paulist Press 1989), pages 85-87

PONDER AND CONSIDER

  • Amidst brokenness, how do we become channels of abundant life?
  • Contemplate the story through two different frames: First, be the bamboo. In a second reading, imagine yourself the master. How do you respond to the two readings? 
  • “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. | Mark 8:34,35
  • “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. John 12:24