KEEP A GREEN TREE IN YOUR HEART AND PERHAPS THE SINGING BIRD WILL COME. In theory, all Christians would probably agree with this Chinese wisdom. But in practice, keeping that tree green and welcoming can be a challenge, particularly when it comes to forgiveness. Perhaps it’s time to listen to George Macdonald who wrote: “If, owing you love, he gives you hate, you, owing him love, have yet to pay it” (Lewis, Anthology 51).
And Christ, who embodies God’s forgiveness, is waiting expectantly for that change in our heart, for any opening that would allow his forgiving spirit to take root in us. In Luke, for example, Jesus offers a parable that uses an unproductive fig tree as a metaphor. The owner of the vineyard says: “See here! For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree, and still I find none. Cut it down! Why should it be wasting the soil?” (Luke 13:6-7) But the compassionate gardener asks that the fig tree be given another chance, one more year, so that with some attention and fertilizer, it could possibly “bear fruit.”
The Lord, our compassionate Gardener, is daily giving us this same opportunity. When we quit “wasting the soil” on our grudges, when we repent and yield, the Lord nurtures and tends the living “tree” of his spirit in our heart. Then, as Christ’s empathy and compassion and forgiveness take root, the “singing bird” comes.