Joy Of A Tree In Full Bloom

Photo by Antonina Bukowska on

The Joy Of Feeling Loved and Lovable

by Eric Elkin

They are like trees
    planted by streams of water,
which yield their fruit in its season,
    and their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
— Psalm 1:3

I’ve never been a person who followed instructions. Even when the one teaching had my best interests in mind, I still struggled to listen and obey. I preferred the path of trial and error. To me, experience was the best teacher. Even when experience turned out to be painful and frustrating. 

The worst part of this personality trait is you know the end result before it comes. You see the often additional challenges long before they happen. Still, you keep doing it, over and over again. The people standing by your side look at you in amazement saying to themselves, “Will this person ever learn?”

Sometimes not following instructions relate to big life decisions. However, more often than not, it involves the simple and mundane activities of life. Actions like following the instructions to assemble a piece of equipment. Despite being an English major with a Masters of Divinity, a degree which required me to learn two ancient languages, I never read the instructions. Instead, I look for the pictures and assemble pieces that seem to be consistent with the image.

Truthfully, I don’t think I have ever assembled anything in my life that didn’t have one piece left over. One part that belonged in the mechanism, but didn’t make it in because I was not following instructions. If the device doesn’t work, I curse and swear. Then tear it apart and start all over again. If it does work, the extra piece goes into my “extra piece” draw in the garage. Sound familiar?

Jesus came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear.
— Henri Nouwen

Scripture verses about following instructions always weigh heavy on my soul. They remind me of my faults and the inescapability of them. They make me feel wicked and cause me to be angry at other people. I think of the people in my life who do listen. The “teacher’s pet” from elementary school. The “coach’s favorite” on a sports team. My wife who is disciplined enough to follow instructions. She does not have to deal with my kind of problems.

Reading Psalm 1 only feeds my sense of failure. The wicked do not listen, the righteous prosper like a healthy tree by a stream. I can say from the view of the wicked, that the righteous tree flaunts its superiority at the wicked all the time. Perhaps this is not the most faithful or healthy understanding of this psalm.

This morning, I launched an Ordinary Voices podcast interview with Patrice Salmeri. Patrice works in the field of addiction recovery. We talked about the role of spirituality in helping people in addiction find healing. She said most people have an overwhelming sense of being worthless. They need to hear and understand someone bigger than themselves loves them.

Truth is all of us listen to the voice in our head telling us we’re not good enough. We struggle to listen to the one who speaks from outside our thoughts. The one who looks at us and says, "You are completely lovable."

What if the laws God wants us to follow is that we are loved, we are precious and most of all forgivable when we do not listen? I think if we listened and followed these simple instructions, we understand the joy of a tree in full bloom.


Click to read Psalm 1

Reflection Questions:

  • Are you a person who follows instructions or does not follow instructions?

  • How well do you relate to someone who does not follow instructions like you?

  • What would you change about yourself if you could?

  • How does the inability to change shape how you feel about yourself?

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