“Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the LORD, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth.” Psalm 96:12b-13
Navigating my mountain bike down the steep, rocky trail was requiring all of my concentration. Looking up for a split second, I caught a flash of pink ahead. As I squeezed the brakes and slowed down, I discovered the blur of color I’d seen was a beautiful tree in full bloom. It was tucked off to the side of the trail down a steep and rocky ravine, the top branches just barely visible. Stopping to admire it, I wondered how many people would have the chance to see it during its short spring blossoming season. It seemed like a waste for it to be missed.
Later, as I thought about the tree again, it made me realize that sometimes we have our own moments of “blossoming.” I think of these moments as times we’ve chosen to say, “yes” to God and to obey Him, even if we’re the only ones who know. We may not see immediate results, but God is honored, nonetheless.
A few years ago I had a series of “yes” moments that left me confused. It started when I learned that an acquaintance had lost her father to cancer. Having my own dad pass away six years ago, I felt a pang of sadness and a strong urge to reach out in compassion to this woman, even though I barely knew her. Before I let anything else distract me, I wrote her a card, bought some flowers and brought them to her house. She was touched by the gesture and thanked me profusely. My act of obedience felt good and I knew it was the right thing to do.
Two days later, she called to thank me again. “I’ve been reading and re-reading your note all weekend. You have no idea what comfort it has brought me. It’s so good to know someone else understands my pain. There is one question that is nagging at me though. I’m not sure where my dad is now and this is really scary for me. Can you relate to that?” Gulping, I breathed a prayer asking for the right words and responded gently: “Well, that really hasn’t been an issue for me. My dad had a strong faith in Jesus, so I’m at peace knowing he’s home in heaven.” Without missing a beat, she responded: “I’m religious too, but I guess I never really saw the personal connection you just described. Do you think we can get together and talk about it more sometime soon?” What else could I say but, “yes”?
Before you jump to the conclusion that this is just another tale with a happy ending, let me stop you. Lysa TerKeurst gives a fantastic example of this in Chapter One of What Happens When Women Say Yes to God. In her story, she offers her beloved Bible to a man she meets on a plane. Later, she learns that this act eventually leads him to give his life to Christ and to impact others in significant ways. My story has a slightly different ending.
Over the course of many months, my acquaintance and I had several meaningful conversations. She made it clear she was seeking spiritually and even asked me if she could come to church and Bible study. I invited her to various outreach events and social gatherings. She would respond enthusiastically, only to cancel at the last minute or just not show up. Instead of explaining or apologizing, she would avoid me for a while afterwards until I initiated again. I wondered if I was doing something to offend her, often criticizing myself and assuming I’d used the wrong approach. My intentions were pure; my motivation was selfless; I was obeying God, but I wasn’t getting the results I expected!
I wish I could say that eventually my questions were answered and that she accepted Christ and went on to have a vibrant relationship with Him. In reality, she ended up moving away, never even showing up for the final meal we had planned to say goodbye. I may never know why things happened as they did, but I finally recognized that there was a reason for her behavior that had nothing to do with me. I felt sad at the way things ended, but at peace knowing I’d shown God’s love and had obeyed His promptings.
This relationship was not the only time I said “yes” to God and had less than fulfilling results. While there have been times people have responded favorably, it is not unusual for me to extend myself to someone, point her toward God and have her suddenly start avoiding me. Even though my actions are bathed in prayer, sometimes people just aren’t ready to delve into spiritual topics. I have to trust that a seed has been planted, if nothing more. If my goal were immediate results, I would have stopped long ago. Thankfully, I’ve been blessed with wise people in my life who encourage me not to look at the “results,” but to keep obeying God and remembering that He has been honored by my “yes” to His leading, whether or not the person responds.
Even in the Bible we see Jesus give commands to His followers knowing that they will not always produce results. In Luke 10 he sends seventy-two disciples out to share the gospel saying: “When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you… He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” When the seventy-two return later and report back to Jesus, they are pleased with their results saying “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” He replies: “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The disciples revel in their successful results but Jesus counters by telling them to rejoice in their salvation. Showing obedience to God reveals our love for Him, whether or not it produces results in the lives of others.
That brings us back to the blooming tree I saw tucked in the ravine along the trail. Whether or not anyone ever notices it, it stands with its branches reaching heavenward in testimony to God and His amazing creation. It doesn’t care about the beauty resulting from its blooming. If the petals dropped from the tree before a single person saw it, God would still be smiling on it for fulfilling its purpose on earth.
We live in an incredibly results-driven culture, but what God cares about is our hearts. Lysa TerKeurst says: “When you look at your everyday circumstances through the lens of God’s perspective, everything changes. You come to realize that God uses each circumstance, each person who crosses your path, and each encounter you have with Him as a divine appointment. Each day counts, and every action and reaction matters. God absolutely loves to take ordinary people and do extraordinary things in them, through them, and with them” (p.16). The extraordinary thing is your obedience; just leave the results up to Him. When you obey, your tree is blossoming, even if no one ever stops to notice.