A Tree of Life
Distinguishing Divine Desire
25 January 2016 | 15 Shevat 5776 | Tu B'Shevat
As my 32nd birthday approached, I prepared to move into my dream apartment! It was located in Kansas City’s Plaza area, in a section known as Poet’s Corner. How appropriate for a poet! The building was designed by a female architect and built in the 1920s along with a series of buildings – each one named after a famous poet. I felt like I was living in New York City again, but this time, in the New York apartment I had always wanted, but never had. My favorite room was the solarium. I pictured myself setting up a writing desk in there, where I could have a set apart place to pour out my heart into my next writing project. I had sold everything before moving to Kansas City, so furniture shopping was my next priority.
Meanwhile, I had just returned from Uganda, and during a safari there I noticed that I was perpetually drawn to trees! I was constantly snapping photos of those famous acacia trees – the ones that so typify Africa. As I began to unpack my belongings in my new home, I noticed that I had framed prints of trees from many of my excursions - trees from Israel, trees from South Africa, trees from my hometown in Connecticut, trees from Central Park in New York … I mentally noted the tree theme and moved on.
Now onto birthday party planning! I was excited to celebrate this new season of life in my new home, and was determined to have it furnished in time. As I continued to think about furniture, a random desire returned to my heart day after day – to have my late Grandmother Sylva’s writing desk. Until now, I had not once thought of my grandmother’s writing desk, but suddenly I had this deep sense that I was supposed to have it. But this desire didn’t make sense! My grandmother had passed three years prior. I had no idea where her writing desk was or who might have it. Finally, I prayed that if I was supposed to have this treasure … that it would somehow find its way to me. With that prayer, I put the thought to rest.
I continued looking for furniture. As the friendly sales associate began to show me some pieces, I shared with her my desire to have a writing desk – for the first time in my life – a legitimate writing desk! I told her about my grandmother and how she and I wrote letters to one another throughout my childhood and even into my college years. The art of letter writing was something I had learned from my grandmother, who, even at 90 years old, remained a pen pal with her friend from kindergarten.
Back to party planning. I looked at the calendar and noticed that my birthday was the same day as Tu B’Shevat. How interesting that my birthday was also Israeli Tree Planting Day! The Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar coincided in such a way that the 15th of Shevat fell on the eve of the 15th of January. This was surely not a coincidence!
In the midst of all these tree mysteries, I was invited out to lunch for my birthday, and subsequently given a small gift – a tree pin! The question of Why did this person give me a tree pin as a birthday gift? was superseded by the desire to know what it all meant. I again noted the tree theme, and put it on my mental checklist to pray about the spiritual significance of trees!
And then it happened. On the eve of my birthday, I received a message from my aunt informing me that my Grandmother’s writing desk was to be given to me! It was all so overwhelming! As I read the message, I began to well up with tears. The desk was surely a special gift that was very meaningful to me. But moreover, I was flabbergasted at how specifically God had planted in my heart a desire to have my Grandmother’s writing desk, and then fulfilled that desire so perfectly.
As I thought about the news, and the theme of the trees, I fell to my knees, and prayed, “What are you trying to communicate to me through all of this?”
The response immediately flooded my heart,
"Desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
I then knew that God had orchestrated all these events, in order to teach me the importance of listening to my heart. Our Heavenly Father is constantly yearning to communicate with us! If we would slow down and pay attention, surely we would discover that there is so much to uncover. When our desire is fulfilled, it's a reminder to not overlook or deem illegitimate those desires that Elohim so strategically places within us. Of course, we must remember that not all desire is divine, and we should sift our souls diligently according to his truth, in order to discern a delinquent desire from a divine desire. But if our constant delight is found in Him, we can have confidence and clarity about His destiny for us – a discovery made by identifying our heart's desires.
For even as the Creator placed the tree of life in the center of the garden, He has also placed in the center of our souls His divine desire, and His Spirit, that it should be unto us a divine guide – a desire fulfilled – and a tree of life!
Divine vs. Delinquent Desire
How do we distinguish if our desire is divine (God's will) or delinquent (not God's will) ? Here are some helpful hints.
Proverbs 13:12 JPS
"Desire fulfilled is a tree of life."
Hebrews 4:12 ESV
"For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
Psalm 37:4 ESV
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart."
Psalm 145:19 ESV
"He [the Lord] fulfills the desire of those who fear him."
Genesis 2:9 JPS
"And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil."
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