If you’re standing on our back porch looking out over our property, to the right you can’t help but notice to large maple trees. An arborist once told me that these two were a couple of the largest maple trees he’s ever seen. My guess is that they are both about four and a half feet wide at the base. I’ve often wondered how old these trees must be to have achieved that size?
Last year while attempting to put a birdhouse at the base of one of the trees, my foot slipped off the shovel, and much to my surprise, broke through revealing a hollow center. That’s right, this huge tree was completely hollow on the inside.
I couldn’t help but wonder how safe this was. After all, the tree is located near our house and if a big wind came could it fall over and do damage?
I had my arborist friend come out again to inspect the tree. He told me that yes indeed, I did have a problem on my hands, that the tree had probably been sick for quite some time, and that it needed to come down.
I asked him, “How is it possible for a tree to be as hollow on the inside as this one, and yet appear to be normal on the outside?” He told me that trees are pretty resilient and obviously this one was still able to draw enough moisture and nutrients from the soil through its thin outer shell.
So next week a crew will show up at my place and begin the two-day process of cutting down my dear old friend.
We’ve been living here for over six years now and it wasn’t until last year that we discovered that this seemingly healthy tree was actually hollow on the inside. Even though it was still sprouting leaves, providing shade, and hosting birds and other forest creatures, it was hollow in the center.
I began to think how easy it is for those of us who lead others to be hollow on the inside but apparently healthy on the outside. Sometimes we are aware of our own hollowness, and either minimize it or ignore it. Sometimes we even tell ourselves that our hollowness is temporary, and over time will correct itself.
Had I not accidentally kicked the tree I would’ve never known its true condition. Probably, however, sometime in the future when we experience the big storm, the tree would come crashing down, and then I would know… it was hollow in the center.
We can be unaware of our own hollowness until we get kicked or are faced with a storm. The true condition of our soul is then revealed.
The ministry is a dangerous thing for one’s inner life. The reason for this is that we spend our days doing good and spiritual things, ministry-related things. We draw a certain amount of nutrients from the ministry tasks that make up the life of a pastor. And these nutrients are just enough to give the appearance on the outside of health but not enough to prevent the hollowness of soul that results from a neglect of soul-care.
How’s your center? Don’t wait until you get kicked, or until a strong wind blows, to discover your true condition.