Some of you saw my social media pic of our kitten up in the Christmas tree. I laughed when a friend commented that we’ld be lucky if the whole tree didn’t fall because it immediately transported me back to 2009: The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree.
That was our first year in our house we still live in, and I remember trying to decide the best place for the tree. I wasn’t thrilled with where we put it, but even more bothersome was the top of the tree was tilted. Every morning when I came into the living room it was not the pretty lights or the ornaments I saw (many of which had been wedding shower gifts), but only the imperfect tree.
I asked my husband to fix it. But without undecorating and starting completely over that was no easy feat. He did try; only it made it worse. I was not happy, and my whole family knew.
But it got worse…
As you can probably guess, the tree eventually fell. We were all home when it happened. And of course, the front of the tree – with all my most valuable and sentimental ornaments – is what hit the ground.
Apart from sweeping up the shattered glass, it’s all a blur now. But what I’m left with is more than a funny Christmas story, but the story God has been writing in me that the crooked tree perhaps sparked.
You see, I wanted the perfect tree because I had made it a reflection of me. If it looked bad, I looked bad. Therefore, when anyone came into our home, I made it known that I was fully aware the tree was crooked before they could judge me. Ridiculous, huh? But even more than other’s opinions, it was my own standard with no room for failure that accused me of not measuring up. Is it any wonder then I couldn’t enjoy the lights and decorations on the tree with imperfection glaring back at me?
This sounds crazy, but I was looking for my identity in a perfectly decorated tree! As if it could give me a secure worth! But we do this with all sorts of things – our home, our physical appearance, our performance, and that of our husband or kids. They all become measuring sticks for how we are doing.
Of course, in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with wanting our house to look pretty, a cute outfit to wear, obedient kids or even a straight Christmas tree. But when these things become something we obsess over, can’t let go of, have to have, find pride in, feel better than others for, or we think has to be fixed it is a sure tell sign these things are acting as our functional “gods.”
What’s even crazier is the perfection we strive for is already securely ours in Christ. No matter how hard we try to build our own identity we can’t ever measure up to God’s standard. But the good news is, we don’t have to. Jesus did it for us!
When we are in Christ, we have his righteousness and God’s unwavering acceptance. To look to anything else for merit, or identity, is to live as if what Jesus did was not enough.
There was beauty in my imperfect tree, I just couldn’t see it because I was focused on the wrong thing. Similar to how we do ourselves. We see what’s missing, where we fail to measure up and what we’ve done wrong. But when God’s grace crashes into our crooked lives we begin to see his beauty shines brighter in our brokenness.
That same year of the crooked Christmas tree, my daughter made a paper mache Christmas tree in her sixth grade art class. It too was crooked, not by design. (I should’ve seen the foreshadowing!)
That paper mache tree is what replaced my broken Radko ornament as one of my favorite Christmas treasures. When I look at it, and read back over the stories the kids wrote about “The Year of the Crooked Christmas Tree,” I am reminded of my need for Jesus and his perfect love for me.
So as we deck our halls this season, may the lights and decor serve not as a means to adorn ourselves with any glory of perfection, but to draw our eyes to the One who hung on a tree so his perfection could be ours.