Once upon a time there lived a bush and a tree, side by side in a large garden. The bush sat squat and low, near the base of the tree. She often gazed up at the tree admiring her great height and wishing she could be so tall and so regal in the garden. Yet the bush forgot the small creatures and insects who found their home in her leafy protection.
The tree rose tall in the garden, narrow at the bottom and full up top. She often looked down and admired the fullness of the bush. The tree fretted over her leafless trunk, showing all her bark. Yet the tree forgot the birds of the air and the creatures that climbed her branches, which provided resting and nesting places.
One day the bush decided to be like the tree and she shed all the leaves on her lower branches. She stretched as high as she could reach, longing for a bird to come and land on her. One finally did but soon flew away because she didn’t have the strength to hold him.
Seeing the bush’s daring, the tree decided to try changing her leaves as well. She hunched over in the garden, extending her lower branches down in an attempt to cover her trunk. The bird nesting in those branches squawked and screamed at her, then flew away and never came back, leaving the nest empty and deserted.
Soon the bush began to weary of her efforts to be like a tree and collapsed upon herself. Only then did she notice the creatures and insects that used to snuggle against her on the ground were no longer there. She mourned their loss and vowed to try harder.
The tree began to ache and complain over her hunched appearance. She felt more like an old tree then one in her prime. So she tried to stretch back upward, but it took time as she’d lost her strength. She wanted to give up.
Over time the bush’s base filled back out full of leaves and the creatures and insects returned to their sheltered homes. She decided she liked her place as a bush in the garden and could admire and appreciate the tree next to her. For the tree gave her shade and shelter too.
The tree not only reached her former height but grew even taller and stronger. Soon the birds and climbing critters returned, chattering and happy to be back. The tree sighed with contentment as a gentle breeze fluttered her leaves. She decided she liked her place as a tree in the garden and could admire the bush below. For the bush gave her barky base protection, much better than her own branches could have.
So the bush and the tree worked together for many years, bringing flying, climbing, crawling and burrowing creatures safety, protection and even food.
One day, the Great Gardener looked upon them with pleasure and said, “Well done, faithful bush. You have served well in your place as a bush. And well done, faithful tree. You have served well in your place as a tree. Just as I had designed each of you to be!
For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all
have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. — Romans 12:4-6
But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. — 1 Cor. 12:18-20
My friends, I sat one morning on my porch staring out into my yard at the bush and tree there. As I praying this story came flowing from the Holy Spirit and was a valuable visual for me to understand how harmful comparison is. When we compare our appearances, our marriages, our children, or even our spiritual gifts to others, we lose sight of what we already have and who God designed each of us to be. We are His details and He delights in us, exactly as He mades us. And His heart is that we live in unity, sharing our gifts with each other so that the entire body of Christ (the family of God) will thrive and grow.
This has been such a valuable lesson for me this year as I understand who God created me to be, and learn to be content in who I am in Jesus and how He has called me to function in the family of God. I can’t think of a better place to be so that the light of Jesus can shine brightest to those around us. Including each other!