by Anjali Kamaleson

I had been browsing the small potted trees at the greenhouse when I saw an elegant branch in a Mason jar, roots sprouting at the bottom. I looked at the tag. Weeping Willow. We’d recently moved to a new town and something for the yard, like a willow, would be a unique addition.

“What’re you looking at?” My mom asked, coming up behind me.

“Weeping Willow. Isn’t it pretty? It’d be nice to plant one in the backyard, hmm?”

“Yeah,” she replied with a nod, a look on her face that I couldn’t decipher. She smiled. “Maybe someday.”

A month later, on my birthday, my mom gave me strangely shaped package. Inside were two weeping willows of my own. I went to the backyard and planted them side by side.

“Someday when they’re bigger, I’ll put a bench between them,” I said to Mom, with a smile.

Sun and rain. Wind and snow.They grew, strong and tall. One particularly violent storm, one of my willows was struck by lightning. I thought about getting another one, for the bench. But one willow works just as fine as two.

Soon after, my dad got a new job, far away. I said goodbye to my willow. I wouldn’t get to put a bench there. Maybe I would plant another willow at the new place. Maybe I would get a bench too.

The new house had a small backyard, hardly enough room for a weeping willow, let alone two. I silently hoped we might move again, to a house with a bigger backyard for my willows and bench. But we didn’t.

Years passed. I went off to college and though my days were a whirlwind of classes, friends, and studying, I remembered my willow. I vowed that as soon as I graduated, I would go find my willow.

Weeks after I graduated, I bought a quaint stone bench, packed it in my car, and drove back to my old home. My willow still stood. Taller, stronger, lovelier, prouder, towering over all the other trees. Nestled under the flowing, feathery branches was a little bench. A little girl sat on the bench and from a distance I saw a peaceful expression on her face. She was content, she belonged.

Birds sang in the trees. A squirrel darted across the yard, and butterflies danced in the breeze. The little girl looked up and saw me. I smiled and waved. She hesitantly waved back. I decided it was time. I was going to go; and this time I didn’t mind so much. My bench was waiting in my car, along with the prospects of a new beginning, a new home, underneath a new willow tree.

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Cumbered by Much Serving

One of the greatest challenges teenagers face today is that simple, terrifying question adults ask in total innocence:

“So what are you doing after school?”

The question makes your world wobble just a little. You feel cold on the inside and warm on the outside, and plaster a self-assured smile on top of it so that they can’t see how scared you are. “Oh, I’ll travel,” you say. Or, “I’m taking a gap year.” Both usually mean the same thing: you have no idea. All your life things have been planned out for you in a slow steady sequence – the grades following one another in an inescapable, mundane security. But now suddenly graduation is looming, and after that the vast abyss of whatever lies beyond. You’ve wanted to lead your own life for the past few years – well, now you’ve got it. And you come to the startling, disorienting realisation that you have no idea what to do with it.

For a Christian teen, this becomes a mighty challenge to your faith. You want to serve your God with everything in you and change the world in His Name; you want to be a city on a hill, you want to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You want to know your calling so that you can go out and work hard and serve Him. So you read your Bible, and work hard to get your grades up, and you pray and you pray. “Here I am, Lord, send me!”

And then there is silence. There is no fire and lightning. There are no angels singing out your divinely chosen occupation. There is no still small voice. There is only silence.

You grow a little desperate. You’re begging God for your calling but He’s not giving to you. Meanwhile your peers and your family judge you and keep asking and asking that question. You’re bombarded with ideas from the world, your parents and social media, and then your own desires rise up and start to whisper in your ear too. OK, so you need a calling. But you need to make enough money off this to live on. You don’t want to move too far, or maybe you want to move to Europe or wherever. The hours shouldn’t be ridiculous, but you also don’t want to be employed by a jerk. Above all, you must enjoy it. Yes, that sounds good. Doing something you enjoy for money – that sounds great, right?

Sound familiar? Don’t be surprised – most of us either are going through it or have been through it. And it’s not a fun place to be in, but the way out is in your hands.

The key lies in Luke 10:

38 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

Wow, how cool is Martha? She sounds really good. Look at how hard she’s working, serving Jesus, making this awesome meal for Him, getting her house clean and pleasant for Him. Isn’t that what we all want? To serve Him with all our heart? If only God would tell us what He wants from us so that we can go and work hard and do it!

Thing is, Jesus didn’t ask Martha for a meal or for a nice, clean house. He wasn’t interested in that – He was interested in her. In fact, the KJV describes Martha as “cumbered by much serving”. Cumbered – isn’t that just how we feel at this time in our lives? In the next verse, Jesus tells her exactly what He wants from her: herself.

41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Brothers and sisters, the Lord is saying these words just as loudly to you and I today. We are far too hasty to rush into serving Him without knowing Him. His presence in your life – His true, real, dynamic, living Self inside you – is the only way your imperfect human soul can achieve true service of the High King.

Don’t get worried and upset about all these details. There’s only one thing worth being concerned about, and it’s Him. Sitting at His feet. Soaking up His word. Listening to His voice. It’s all about the relationship, and that’s what He really wants. In time, when He knows you, and when you know Him, if it is His will, you will be given your calling. But for now, let us simply sit at His feet and listen to Him.

Be still and know that He is God.