by Christine Berglund
My lovely Weeping Corkscrew Willows, Salix Matsudana Tortuosa, have always been bent and twisted. It’s a defining feature of the tree, and it adds texture to the garden as the curly branches twist and twine their way toward the ground in zig-zag waterfalls.
We have named the pair “George” and “Gracie.” George is a bit older, and I wasn’t very diligent in trimming off the new, contorted sprouts as they grew off the four main trunks. (Yes, four trunks; another gardening mistake of mine).
Consequently, a few of them crossed each other and got intertwined, and now are growing as one mangled branch. That distorted branch isn’t going in the direction that it should have, and I could have prevented the disfigured mess if I had pruned it while it was younger.
“As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.” We use this old adage when we speak of raising children. The principle is also true at any age. Adults can allow themselves to be easily impressed, or “bent,” into exhibiting certain characteristics.
It’s really all about how we learn bad habits and make them our own by repeating them. Using coarse language, adopting a negative mindset, or a general feeling of entitlement might be a beginning of even worse behavior.
Or perhaps the first drag on a cigarette, viewing porn, or cheating others for dishonest gain might be an outgrowth of earlier, smaller directional choices. Twisted thoughts beget twisted actions. Before long, sin entangles us.
“But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:20-24, NASB).
Thankfully we don’t have to stay “bent out of shape” when we “learn Christ.” While it is impossible to straighten out the contorted branches and twigs of my trees after the wood becomes hardened, with God nothing is impossible!
Bad habits and even personality characteristics can be changed through being “renewed in the spirit of your mind.”
The word “repentance” literally means to turn around and go the other direction. My curly willow trees sometimes have branches that have doubled back on themselves; it’s really quite interesting to see!
As a gardener might judiciously prune the branches to make them more visually appealing, we can cut out the bad habits and turn around to go in the right direction. This process is much easier before the habits become a way of life.
Now that I am more familiar with these Corkscrew Willows, I find that it is a good idea once in a while to untangle those wayward, curly branches. That way the effect will be a neater, more flowing appearance.
We would do well to untangle our lives and habits, too.