A story is told about a king who went into his royal garden one morning, only to find every tree and plant withering and dying. He approached the oak tree and asked what its trouble was. The oak tree said it was tired of life and decided it wanted to die, since it could never be as tall as the pine tree. The pine tree felt discouraged and withered because it could never bear fruit like the grapevine. The grapevine was determined to die because it could never stand tall and bear large fruit like the peach tree. The geranium was depressed because its flowers were not as tall and fragrant as the lilac.
The king continued walking through his garden, dismayed by its desolate state, when he came across a small violet. Its tiny frame was beautifully bright and full of life. The king told the small flower: “You look radiant! You don’t seem to be the least disheartened about the misery and discouragement around you.” The violet replied: “No, I am not. I know I’m small, yet, I imagine that if you wanted an oak tree or a pine tree where I am, you would have planted one. Since I know you wanted a violet, I am determined to be the very best violet I can be.”
This allegory gives me pause. It makes me think of how much time and energy we waste wishing for something we cannot attain, or striving to be someone we were never meant to be. We hear stories of beautiful women who submit themselves to excruciatingly painful procedures to change their body’s shape. We watch as people’s faces become deformed because they cannot accept aging as a natural process of life. We hear about young teenagers who starve themselves in an attempt to look like celebrities and models on magazines. We witness preachers striving to copy famous preachers, parents pushing their kids to the extremes of competition, and employees begrudging their peers for being promoted. Envy and jealousy sear in a society that insists on believing that the grass is always greener on the other side.
I can’t help but imagine God as the king in the story, sadly walking through his garden and watching his plants become gloomy and lifeless where he planted them. He watches as we sneer at his provision and his unique design for each of our lives, and as his work becomes repetitious and dull, rather than vibrantly unique.
It’s not that we shouldn’t strive to become better. I am certainly not against all plastic surgery, seeking better job opportunities or admiring those who are great examples of leadership for the work of the kingdom. We should indeed look at successful people and appreciate their unique virtues and, whenever their success is more than skin deep, even look up to them as great examples to follow. But the issue becomes when we are so engrossed comparing ourselves to others and desiring their shade of glory, that we forget that God has a unique plan for each one of us, and that our job is to be the very best we can be, wherever he plants us.
It’s true — the happiest, most successful and fulfilled human beings are those who embrace their uniqueness, play on their strengths and find contentment wherever God places them. Whether as a mighty oak tree or a small violet planted on the corner of the garden, their secret is accepting themselves and their place of service with grateful hearts, remembering that if and when God wants them to bear fruit elsewhere, he will make provision to move them to a broader field.
Patricia Holbrook is a Christian author and national conference speaker. Her book, “Twelve Inches: Bridging the
Gap Between What You Know About God and How You Feel,” is available on Kindle, at Barnes and Nobles, Amazon and other retailers. Visit her website at www.soaringwithhim.com Email: pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com