As The Twig Is Bent
As The Twig Is Bent
By Annette McDaniel
On the Church camp ground I attended as a teenager, a tree stands whose two main branches were tied in a knot while it was still a sapling. Now fully grown, the aberration remains. A small sign hangs from the distorted limbs, reading, “As the Twig is Bent . . .” The quote by Alexander Pope, an 18th Century poet ends, “So Grows the Tree.’ The message is clear. Events occurring early in life affect growth.
Across the country, on the coast of Monterey, California a grove of ancient cypress trees lean landward, gnarled and bent by the strong winds sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean. It is easy to understand how they came to be that way. Outward circumstances forced the trees to grow slanted as the wind pummeling them year after year. While the trees may be twisted and bent, they continue to thrive. It is when the core is compromised by boring insects or disease that the tree dies.
While we are not trees, there is a parallel with what happened to the trees and early experiences of the young. Children learn by modeling the adults around them. If they do not learn positive attributes at home, peer pressure and other outside forces may later lead them into dangerous territory.
Students of human nature have pondered why some young people raised in abject poverty have become extremely successful members of society while others growing up with every imaginable advantage, go on to commit heinous acts against that same society. They examine the “nature versus nurture” factor from every possible angle and still have reached no consensus regarding the solution because they are forgetting the “God factor.” We are told in Scripture that the blind (to Godly living) cannot successfully lead the blind.
Dorothy Law Nolte, a family counselor, known for her poem Children Learn What They Live, lists seven negative and eleven positive attributes. Below is a sampling:
“If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.”
And on the positive side,
“If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with approval, thy learn to like themselves.”
The answer is not dependent on circumstances surrounding the individual but the condition of the heart within, and God’s unfathomable grace. Somewhere along the way, caring individuals planted seeds of praise, honesty or acceptance on which the struggling child fed and thrived despite his rough beginnings. Meanwhile the pampered indulged ones, while given every material thing, were also fed with hostility, jealousy and criticism. No wonder that they, despite their worldly advantages, being spiritually malnourished, struck out against their parents and society.
Jesus tells us, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for without me you can do nothing.” John 15: 5
Of one thing, we can be sure. Abiding in Jesus (the True Vine) will keep us in the will of the Father and point us to an abundant life. Our responsibility, as mature believers is, not only to bear much fruit but to plant good seed for others who need encouragement.