On a recent road trip, I stopped to visit the Redlands California Temple.
Walking from the main parking lot toward the temple, I was greeted by a beautiful water fountain, lovely flowers, manicured lawns, two curved staircases, and some palm trees.
At first glance, you might notice that one of those four trees is out of place. The gardener obviously planted these four trees together in a row, hoping for them to grow in a tall, symmetrical pattern. But one tree wandered away a little bit on the way up.
At temples, the landscaping team goes to great efforts to make sure things look their best. So I was curious why they allowed this tree which doesn’t fit the mold.
The expert husbandmen of the garden surely saw this happening in the tree’s early years. They could have made the decision that this tree had veered too far off course, and was unable or unworthy of attempts to save it. To preserve the intended beautiful pattern, they might have had it removed and replaced with another tree early in its development.
But they did not.
They let it grow up with the others.
The more I thought about it, the more I like that imperfect tree exactly where it is.
This tree obviously took a different path than its siblings during its maturity. But it did eventually straighten up like it was supposed to. And it continues to stand on the holy ground today, reaching heavenward.
The twisted tree reminds me that we don’t need to have lived our lives perfectly to worship at church, or to serve at the temple. We only need to be on the right upward path now. We need to be worthy today and willing to contribute our part at this time.
If our lives have taken some unusual turns, and the mistakes of our past are still visible, we might still live with obvious scars. Unfortunately, some judgemental people are only going to notice those apparent flaws, and they will be all-to-happy to remind us of them.
But in the eyes of the Master Gardner, earlier choices don’t need to define our current ability to progress. The Husbandman of this garden has not bound us in bundles and tossed us into the fire yet. He still has hope for us. He still wants to offer us opportunities and blessings.
Like this tree, we can still stand on holy ground and prosper.