Cottonwood Tree Fail
In autumn, the cottonwood trees in my neck of the woods drop their leaves. They aren’t especially pretty leaves in the fall, but they do have a pleasant fragrance: it is a faint smell like blackberries. Cottonwood trees grow fast, especially when they have access to an abundant source of water, such as my lawn’s sprinkler system. In the wild, they usually flourish along creeks and rivers. A few years back, I noticed that a cottonwood sapling had spring up in the corner of our front yard. I knew I should cut it down, but I liked the appearance of cottonwood trees and so I let it grow. Each passing year I looked at the tree and said to myself, I should cut that tree down before it becomes a problem. But procrastination always reared its ugly head.
Years later, I would get annoyed at the cottonwood tree for dispensing leaves and twigs on my front lawn. I already had enough ornamental trees shedding leaves on my lawn (not to mention the mysterious dog that periodically deposited a mountain, transforming my yard into a compost pile). But then spring and summer would roll around and I would find myself allured by the bright greenery and shade of the cottonwood tree.
Eventually I noticed the roots of the cottonwood tree were pushing through the surface of my lawn and seemed to be working their way towards the front steps and foundation of our house. The cottonwood tree was now over twenty inches wide at the base and many feet higher than the crown of our roof. It was time for the tree to come down. I could no longer favor the beauty of the tree over the threat it imposed on our dwelling. I cut it down last Saturday. What a mess! It took Cindy and me all day to get it down and reduced to manageable pieces.
Is there a spiritual lesson here about allowing unhealthy relationships, sins, or addictions into our lives? Sure! But what jumped out at me about the cottonwood tree was the response of a neighbor. As Cindy and I finished cutting up the tree, one of our neighbors approached and said, “Thank you for cutting down that tree. Each summer that tree shed thousands of those cotton-like seed puffs. That stuff would get all over the interior of my convertible.”
Wow! I had suspected some of my neighbors might not be thrilled with the tree, but I didn’t realize it was causing real headaches and extra work for other people. In other words, the tree was more than an eyesore. I think this is the lesson of the cottonwood tree: We often let unhealthy things enter our lives without realizing how those things affect other people, or we know but ignore it. I knew when I first spotted that cottonwood sapling that it would likely become a problem. But I was willing to endure the problem because I thought it would mostly affect me. I’m glad the threat of the cottonwood tree has been eliminated, but it is probably more important to God that I endeavor to be on good terms with my neighbors.