Honouring the Pine Tree

There was once a lovely valley filled with pine trees, deep in the forest. Magnificent trunks reached from the valley floor and spread their glorious boughs in elegant grace such as eye rarely saw. In fact the valley was so beautiful that people from around the world made the difficult trip to be able to photograph this amazing sight.

But there was a problem with the valley. While all the trees in the valley, whether large or small, were of the most perfect shape and richest colour, creating mottled shades of green as they swept from one side to the other, there was one ugly tree which spoiled every vantage point.

Where the valley reached its height, just below the mountain ridge that circled it, there was a rocky outcrop. Suspended at the edge of those rocks, and hanging on precariously, was a runty and withered little tree which hardly ever had leaves. Its distorted trunk, if that is what you could call its short and twisted stump, was dried and poorly nourished. There was little water among those rocks and this ugly little excuse for a tree had never been more than an insult to all the others below it. Word had it that this tree had only ever produced one pine cone in its entire life.

The other trees often spoke in ugly tones about the runty bit of wood suspended above their glorious valley. They knew that the stunted tree insulted their kind and had to be the ugliest pine tree that had ever grown.

One day when the master Forester came by, the beautiful pine trees complained to him about the ugly tree.

“Why did you let such an ugly tree grow above our beautiful valley? We do not want that ugly tree there at all. We wish he had never even existed.”

“Is that your wish? The Forester asked. “Yes. Yes!” The trees answered.

“Well then”, said the Forester, “I can make it just as if that tree had never taken root. Would you like that?”

“Oh yes!” They rejoiced.

“Fine. I shall start cutting you down today.”

The trees were shocked. “What do you mean?”

“Oh, if that tree did not exist, then none of you would be here either. So I will have to cut you down.”

All the trees began to quake in horror and pulled their branches back from the Forester.

“Let me tell you what happened” the Forester continued.

“Many, many years ago there was a terrible fire that scorched this entire land. It killed all the trees as far as the eye could see. Every tree was burned to ash and this valley looked black and terrible. Only one tree could survive the inferno. It was just a tender shoot at the time, born with one small root pushing into a crack between huge boulders, high above the fire.

“I watched over that tiny plant and encouraged it to survive, but it was desperately lonely and afraid. There was little water and so it could not grow. Instead it twisted this way and that as it stretched to see the sun and to feel a few drops of rain on its face.

“After many years and many struggles that stunted little pine tree came to full growth. But its full height was less than your young plants here in the valley. With just one branch that lonely tree produced just one pine cone, on just one season, in all its many years above the valley.

“When the pine cone was ripe, the tree tossed it down into the valley below and pleaded with me to make sure that the seeds would grow. He so longed to have other pine trees to talk to and he knew it was his destiny to start that new generation.

“The one pine cone, thrown into the valley so many years ago, produced a few new trees, which produced many seeds to produce more and then more beautiful pines. So that first single pine cone led to every one of you trees that now stand so tall and grand. And it’s all thanks to that one lonely old pine tree who did the little bit he could.

All the trees turned and looked up to that stunted trunk at the top of their valley. They were silent. They had despised that old gnarled survivor, when they owed him their very life. One of the tallest and most beautiful trees leaned over as close as he could to that ancient old pine, and whispered, “Thanks.”

With that a whisper went through all the branches in the valley. “Thanks! Thankyou! Forgive me. Good job!” and “Praise God that you were there for us all!”

The old tree smiled a wrinkled smile of embarrassment. He didn’t want attention, but he did appreciate being given the honour that he was due. He shrank back toward the rocks and went on enjoying the view of all he had achieved in his limited and struggling life.

From that time on, when ever photographers came to the valley, the trees would pull their lovely branches out of the way to make sure every photo caught a glimpse of the twisted old tree at the top of the valley. And as people stood in the cool shade of the pine they often thought they could hear a whisper in the breeze that flowed up the valley to the rocky crags above. The whisper sounded like, “Thanks”.

Giving Honour is a Visible Process

Giving Honour is a Biblical mandate. We are commanded to give honour to those to whom it is due (Romans 13:7). We are also commanded to give honour to our father and mother (Exodus 20:12). Yet most westerners have no real idea what giving honour looks like.

I mentioned in a previous post that years ago Dr Dewberry prompted me to question if I gave honour to my dad. I could not answer the question one way or the other, since I really had no handle on what giving honour would look like. Recently I found my heart turned to this subject yet again and some light has been filtering through, so that’s what I want to share with you in my posts on this subject.

Giving Honour is a matter of the heart. Honour is something that comes out from the inside of us. It is not an external ritual but a heart commitment. Yet it will also be a visible process, since it will lead to external expressions of what the heart feels.

It is appropriate, we would all agree, that honour should be given to a ruler. In my childhood it was the practice at every picture theatre (movie house – or whatever they may be called in your culture) to play the Australian national anthem at the commencement of every movie screening. Music would fill the theatre and images of the Australian flag would brighten the room. We would all stand to our feet as an act of giving honour to our country and our monarch. Images of a youthful Queen Elizabeth II, sitting side-saddle on a decorated horse, would fill the screen. We were giving honour to our Queen.

This external act was supposed to be an expression of our heart attitude of giving honour. Similarly army personnel salute a superior officer. A judge is addressed as “your honour”. A police officer is addressed as “sir”. These external expressions reveal that we hold them or their position in honour.

Sadly western culture has slaughtered honour on the altar of individualism and hedonism. But I’ll wax lyrical about that in a later post. Let me take time here to reveal what giving honour might look like in a home.

A man enters his home after work and is confronted with a cacophony of rowdy sounds. A child confronts him and berates him for not being home sooner, since they needed some of his money to buy something they wanted. Another child demands to know where the father has placed something they have been looking for, since they are sure he had it last. On the bench is a note from his wife, advising that he will have to fend for himself, since she decided to go shopping with some friends and would eat out.

What are the evidences of honour in that scenario? Do we see anyone giving honour?

Since the Bible commands us to give honour, what would a home look like where honour was embraced at a heart level? Maybe it would look like this…

A father arrives home from work to be greeted by his attentive and quiet children who take care of his bag and coat. The children remain quiet, so as not to disturb their father. Refreshments have been prepared the way dad likes them, to soothe him. A report is given to him of all matters that he should be apprised of, since he is the one who is responsible for all the members of the household. Several children respectfully give him their report on their day, so they can share with their dad, but also to be sure that he knows things which he might not otherwise find out about.

When the dinner is ready there is a special seat at the head of the table for dad. He is served first and the children are respectfully quiet, taking their lead from the dad’s questions and directions.

Now, without going any further, does that not strike you as a stark contrast to the first scenario? And aren’t you just a little bit inclined to think of the second scenario as being a bit too ‘old fashioned’?

It’s interesting that we relegate giving honour to some past era. It is now out of fashion. It is almost absurd. So let me take my illustration a little further.

The wife is asked by a friend to head off for a fun shopping trip with some surprise visitors. The wife thanks her friend for the invitation but explains that her husband will be home in an hour and she has several things to prepare. The friend suggests that the wife do just as the friend is doing, “Make hubby fend for himself for a change”. The wife declines, explaining that it would be wrong to set that example for her children.

The friend reacts to this. “For crying out loud, you aren’t still thinking you owe your husband something, are you? You know what men are like! They need to be put in their place every so often. If I gave my husband special treatment he’d be likely to expect it all the time.”

The wife explains that she promised God to give honour to her husband, since the husband is God’s gift to her. She explains that she also promised to train her children to give honour to their dad, and so she must be the first to give a positive example. She further explains that her husband is only an ordinary man, and he has no special qualities that earn him such honour. It is simply that God requires it of her and that it is her special gift to her husband.

That’s why I mentioned the visible process in the title of this article. Giving Honour is a Visible Process. If you have honour in your heart it will be seen in your actions.

I did not know how to give honour to my dad, because I grew up in a culture that was throwing off the old fashioned ideas of honour and other Victorian values. It was somehow noble to be arrogant. It was part of the evolutionary advancement of our society to be big enough to move beyond those childish rules and regulations of a simpler and less developed age. Wow! What arrogance and deception was being foisted on us.

Giving Honour is now finally filtering through to me. Maybe you’ve understood it all your life. Next time I’ll share about how the person and the position impact the whole honouring process.
(Honour is the English spelling, while Honor is the American spelling. So this article could just as well have been called “Giving Honor Is a Visible Process” and I could have said, “Honor your father and mother”. Please excuse my default to the spelling of my schooling. The American form may be simpler, but it just looks ‘wrong’ when I write it. I pray my American friends can tolerate the fact that I actually enjoy being who I am, and that I decline the offer of American simplifications.)