Toes and Trees are within reach.

Posted on June 4, 2014 by Jeff

We finally planted a tree in our backyard.

And I can finally touch my toes.

One of those things, I decided to something about a while ago, the other I wish I would have.

Let’s start with the tree. Here it is.

Autumn Blaze

It’s an autumn blaze maple tree. I wanted a maple cause I’m a Canadian and proud of it. And ‘Autumn Blaze’ was my nickname on my Jr. High track n field team. We planted this tree last week.

I’m sitting on my back patio, enjoying what is the perfect weather day. Perfect. We get about 6 of these per year in Minnesota – perfect temperature, warm days, cool evenings, low humidity, clear sunny skies, no wind, no bugs. Perfect. The downside? My backyard patio has virtually no shade. It has no shade because I’ve never planted any trees around it. I wish I had more trees. I wish I had nice mature trees that were full and leafy and could provide some nice shade on our patio. We’ve lived in this house for 10 years and I’ve said that same thing for all 10.

The thing about planting trees is you don’t get immediate results. Trees start out small. Trees have slow methodical growth. It takes years for trees to grow to the point of  ‘patio shady-ness’. It’s one of those things you don’t notice until a few years later when you say, “Hey, those trees are getting kind of big.” Instead, I sit here tonight and say, “you know what I WISH I would’ve done 10 years ago?… plant some trees.”

Now what does that have to do with touching my toes?

A few months ago, I decided to start stretching. I was noticing that I had a staggering lack of flexibility. I would sit on the floor, stretch my legs straight out and it would feel tight. I wasn’t yet even reaching for my toes! Just sitting there felt tight. I had regular tightness in my upper back, hamstrings and neck. So I decided to start stretching. Every day… well… most days my morning prayer time has become a prayer and stretch time. Sometimes there’s some painful groaning which would lead people to believe that I’m really storming the gates, but mostly it’s because I’m trying to inch my fingers closer to my toes.

Stretching is similar to planting a tree in this way: Day one you get few results. But I noticed a couple of mornings ago that I was able to touch my toes and my back and neck pain is way better. I also noticed this evening that more shade on the back patio would be awesome.

Great results come from slow methodical investment – whether it’s a tree growing, or a middle-aged man trying to touch his toes, pretty much everything of value comes from steady investment. For example, I can play the piano. I play it fairly well. This is because my mom made me practice when I was young, and I’ve continued to invest small increments of time over a period of about 35 years. Now I can do it well. I’m very thankful for years of small investments of time.

Talk to most people who have flourishing retirement accounts (I speak is assumptions on this one) and they’ll tell you it was a result of small investments over long periods of time.

But we want quick fixes. We want the results without the long investment. And we are certainly bombarded with messages that quick results are possible – get rich quick, crash diets, win the lottery, fix your marriage in a 2-day retreat, learn Spanish overnight. “Just consume this, listen to this, apply this, lift this, thigh master this, and you’ll get quick results.” That’s the ‘promise’ and we gobble that crap up. We want the results, but we just don’t want to invest the time.

How many things have we tried to do, only to be discouraged because it was too difficult or it would take to long? How many days did I say, “I should plant a tree” only to think, “What’s the point? It’s not going to give me any shade when it’s this small.”

Investments over long periods of time equals desired results.

The same principle applies to living out our faith in God. Many people approach Christianity with a quick fix mentality, like God is some sort of a topical cream -hopefully removing our character zits overnight. But the life of faith truly is a LIFE of faith. It involves daily investments of time in the Bible and in prayer. It involves painstaking devotion to applying God’s word to our lives and working to become more Christ-like. Yes, we are saved only by the grace of God, but we spend the rest of our lives daily learning what it means to be a follower of Christ and to make our lives look more like Him. And man, there’s no shortage of frustrating days along the way when we feel as though we’re not getting very far.

Philippians 2:12 speaks to this:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…

This verse is the Apostle Paul telling a new group of believers to continue to what?… To work out their salvation. Paul is telling these believers that there are no quick fixes, but rather the daily investment of time and devotion.

Keep investing. There will come a day when you’ll look and say “hey, I’m actually growing in this.” Or “Hey, this area of my life is improving!”

So, what area of your life needs some methodical investment of time? What do you want to do? Are you working at it? What are you wishing you would’ve done 10 years ago?

Put it this way, 10 years from now, in what ways would you like to have significantly developed? Do you want to be in better shape? Do you want to know how to speak a different language be out of debt or play the piano? Do you want to be in a place where you no longer struggle with an addiction or noticeable character flaw? Why not begin making small, consistent investments now? You won’t see results today or tomorrow, but down the road, I promise you’ll be glad you did. Invest now, don’t give up and just see what happens.

Shady patios and touched toes could be just the beginning.