From one seed, a tree grows. Eventually, branches develop, each unique in size, character, strength, and productivity.
Three particular branches on my family tree profoundly influenced me, my mother’s brothers. When I was born, they were adolescents living next door to us. They took me on walks, picnics, to the ice cream shop, parades, and for rides in their cars. How many women drive to Florida in a convertible with two hot-looking guys? Okay, I was four years old, my grandfather was with us, and we went to visit my great-grandparents. The point is, I was their princess; they were my knights in shining armor. Under their shade, I grew, showered with attention, gifts, and love. I watched, gleaned, learned.
As they grew, the differences between Mom’s brothers became more apparent. Raised by a missionary mother, they didn’t all embrace her faith. Differing beliefs affected their decisions, molded their personalities, and dictated their futures. They remained devoted to me while their strong personalities clashed.
The family tree began showing signs of wear with the storms of adversity; each branch grew in its own way. Too young to understand what was happening, or why my beloved uncles weren’t always there, I ached for the past when we were together daily. Answers given to my pleas for information were generic or fabrications. Still, their absence never lessened my loving devotion to my childhood heroes.
Not until I became an adult did I learn the truth of those tumultuous years. In time, I also witnessed the results of their choices. Three brothers, three branches of our family tree; none manifested similar markings or offshoots. At times, I cannot believe we’re related, though glad we are.
My youngest uncle was vibrantly loveable. Immaturity, excuses, and avoiding God’s Son, twisted his branch away from responsibility, permanently stunting his growth.* Pursuing pleasure and get-rich-quick schemes, he found work distasteful. After a military tour, he married without family approval. Children soon followed. For a time, I wasn’t permitted to see him. His family suffered from his lack of productivity, provision, and protection. He refused to guard his health or future. His wife died young, he lost their home. Angry with God, consumed with sorrow, his legs needed amputating. Cut in his prime, his offshoots became orphans. Trying to restore their shattered branch, none inherited his aversion toward work, only his legacy of spiritual deprivation, angry toward God. His branch, left in the shadows, suffocates under moss, as do I when I think of him.
Another uncle’s shadow rarely crossed the church’s threshold or attended family functions. He lived dangerously, pushed the law, suffering the consequences. He served for several years, though not in the military. Work and success became his obsession, preoccupying his thoughts, conversations, energy, and time. He became hard, distant. Slowly he lost his influence on others. Eventually he lost his business, health, wife, and children. Education couldn’t straighten his splintered offshoots; several repeated their father’s mistakes. The consequences are evident. Attempts to mend his fractured branch have disappointed. His refusal to accept nourishment from the Son of God or shelter his offshoots from sin produced bruised fruit, disinterested in spiritual matters. Regret consumes my uncle, alone, he weeps, yet remains malnourished, still avoiding the Son, though asking for prayer.** I barely know him. Can his branch survive? I pray so.
Only one uncle followed God’s Son, pursued faith, and grew in character. He proudly joined the Army during war. His absence left me heart-broken. After returning, he worked hard to become self-employed, never allowing business to come before God or family. Successfully he provided for his wife and children. Protecting the family roots’ integrity was crucial to him. Until his parents died, he remained dedicated. Afterward, he faithfully maintained their graves, never filling the hole in his heart. Through numerous ministries, he served his church well. Family, friends, church members, neighbors, and employees sought his counsel, encouragement, friendship, and prayer. He generously gave time, money, and love. In one shocking moment, death snatched him, causing an unbearable loss for me. His offshoots continue to reap the blessings of his faithfulness and fruit.*** By feeding them spiritually, he left them sturdy, able to withstand life. He was our strongest branch, influencing me the most.
Three brothers, three branches, each affected those beneath them on the family tree. They gave me precious memories and valuable lessons. Thinking of them, I laugh, cry, count my blessing, and labor to nourish my branch and offshoots.
*“If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers;” John 15:6 (NIV)
**“…For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” Romans 11:20-21 (NIV)
***"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;” John 15:5 (NIV)
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