The Story of a Tree

This is the story of a tree, it does have quite the same ring as “This is the story of girl, who cried a river and drowned the whole world…”, but none the less, this is the story of a tree, and it can obscure the forest.
This title and idea is a ghetto-rigging (a term we used in JROTC to describe modifying a weapon with paperclips and rubber bands) of something Donald Miller talked about in his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand years, I’m not going to get deep on the specifics (you should read the book) but there was an incident in his life which caused him to look inward for a while and he realized that he was just one tree in a story of a forest (the forest being God’s overall plan for humanity).
In my analogy, the forest is my life and the tree is an aspect of my life, in this case, being “just a teacher in China”. Now I am not saying anything against teachers, they’re awesome, but I think that there is largely a stigma about being an overseas teacher, that you are just trying to find yourself, or you’re running away from something, or you’re some form of deviant who can’t function in the society of home. I have heard all the stereotypes and I’ve met a few people who justify them. However, I think sometimes I can take this stigma, and what other people think of my chosen profession of overseas ESL Instructor to heart.
This happened to me recently, I turned 33 on Feb. 22, and I had a lot of existential questions (who am I? What am I doing with my life, why am I still just a teacher in China? Etc.) in the days leading up to my birthday. I talked to a counselor about these questions, and He looked at me and said basically, “you talk about being “just a teacher”, but then you tell me stories about how you’re a leader in your small group, you’re on the men’s ministry leadership team, you have a vibrant community, it would seem to me that being a teacher is just a small part of your story”.
On the taxi ride home I began to think about this and I realized that I had been looking at the life of a small tree and ignoring the forest, which was thriving. As I thought more about this my drifted to one of my favorite kung fu movies, Shaolin (2011, starring Jackie Chan and Andy lau), there is a scene in that movie in which they are training and the lead monk is exhorting his brothers in their practice, and he says something like “wrists and ankles are one, elbows and knees are one, hips and shoulders are one, body and mind are one, mind and heart are one, heart and strength are one. Feels it’s rhythm, dance in its flow”. I think this is a cool picture of life, all parts of our life are connected and we need to feel that rhythm and dance with it.
Stop thinking about the tree, start thinking about the forest and dance.

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