I heard this story once, not sure of the source. It's probably a very old tale.
God, listening to all of the prayers for relief, from all the people all over the world, got tired of it. God called them all together and said, "You folks. What am I to do with you? I gave you these things, and yet, every day, you pray to me to have me take these troubles, these pains, these sorrows and griefs, you want me to take them back. You say you are not strong enough to bear them." (Does this sound like Deuteronomy yet? Or is it more Minor Prophets?) "So, I have a one-time deal. You write down all these things on a piece of paper and you bring it over to that big tree tomorrow at dawn and we'll see."
So, each one wrote down all their pains, griefs, aches, annoyances, losses, unfulfilled dreams, failures, sorrows, fears, troubles and anything else they could think of. The papers were all different sizes, many different colors. Some writing was the large bold printing of a child. Some was written in the thin wavering script of an elderly woman. Some lists were long and detailed. Some were so brief, but these pages were often the ones most stained with tears.
The crowd gathered at the tree and waited for God. God appeared, as God will, silently suddenly. Someone just realized that He had been standing right there, at his elbow, all along. God walked among the crowd, whispering, "Go, place your sorrows on the tree. You may place your sorrows there and leave them. But you must take away one of the sorrows with you. This time, you choose. If you give up a sorrow, you must take another's sorrow with you by the time the sun goes down today."
Each person went up to the tree and hung a list on a branch. The tree fluttered, but none of the sorrows flew away. The people walked slowly around the tree. They considered. They read carefully. Hands reached out and touched the sorrows, but no one chose. Sometimes several people gathered around one particularly touching piece. A few times, gasps or groans were heard as the people read.
The morning wore on. The people kept walking and reading. Noon came and went. Finally the sun began to descend. The first woman reached up to the tree and chose her sorrow. Then a teenage boy snatched a paper from the tree and sauntered away. A man in a suit and tie carefully selected one, folded it and slipped it into his pocket. Soon, many papers were rustling as the people made their choices.
And what do you think they chose? No matter what awful things they had written on the lists they brought in the morning, each one took home the sorrow that they had wanted most to give up. They chose their very own sorrows.
When compared with what others go through, my sorrow looks very comfortable and familiar to me. My foot pain, it is not as bad as others. I do not mean to turn my blog into a whine-fest. Nor do I mean to diminish anyone else's suffering by bringing up my own.
I often think of the sorrow tree as people tell me their sad stories all day long, hoping that I will tell them that the rules don't apply for them, that they don't have to wait in line, that their situation is truly urgent and difficult. I gotta say, I'm well into jaded when it comes to sad stories. Inside, I empathize. Inside, I say a prayer. But my face remains set and my words are firm.
But, hey, maybe blogdom is the modern sorrow tree.
For fellow Christians, please pray for me this week. I have an opportunity to share about my sorrow and my sins in front of my church next week. This would be difficult, and yet, might prove helpful for others dealing with the same sh** that I've been through. Wisdom, strength, courage, discretion...these things I pray for. Thank for all your support and kind words, no matter what your faith or tradition. And yes, I believe that God does not really get tired of my whiney prayers. I think I wear out before He does.