I don’t know the story behind this tree. All I know is that it has grown with these links embedded in it. Would it have been taller, fuller, stronger without it? Did the chain start out as a helpful boundary that will ultimately kill it? Did some long-ago little person drop part of a toy or tool? Whatever the case, those links eventually grew with the tree, and whether or not they weaken it, the state of this crepe myrtle serves as a unique reminder of how I accommodate my own limitations. I’ve learned to walk and run with a hitch in my step, wear progressive lenses (okay, bifocals) as the type size shrinks, and tap out letters with my left hand when I hurt my right. We all press on. We grow. Either we do, or we die.

But back to that lovely tree.

Its imperfections, its weak places, don’t detract from its beauty. In fact, that chain makes it stand out from the other trees lining the yard. We’ve actually been informed by a neighbor that it might even bloom better if we had it pruned, despite its iron thread. (I should’ve shown him that like my smiling face, both my thumbs are brown. It’s by God’s grace that tree is still alive!) Which brings me to my point: I live by God’s grace not condemned by my imperfections. I can’t let my fetters prevent me from stretching toward the Son, blooming where I’m planted, and being rooted and grounded in faith.

I confess, I haven’t done much stretching and blooming this week because I’ve let my own chains hem me in. I’ve spent days “perfecting” this post. I started out with less than 500 words and ballooned to nearly 1,000 carefully crafted words and who knows how many commas. At one point, I nearly chucked the whole thing because I couldn’t get it just right. That’s the same paralysis that kept A Long Time Comin’ my book of secrets for years, that robbed the joy from the life of my main character, Beatrice Agnew. Fear of failure, rejection of grace, self-condemnation. Chains.

So, before I hit “save” and stored this post away with the others I’ve started and discarded, I prayerfully cut out those extra sentences and precious punctuation and pressed on. No, it won’t be perfect, but I trust God to reveal the beauty of His truth. Which leads me to think we should get our crepe myrtle pruned. We need to preserve those limbs twisting so exquisitely with its chain. But don’t worry, my precious tree-hugging friends. I’ve no plans to wield the shears. The sword of the Spirit is reserved for me.

“…and for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” Ephesians 6:20

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