Christmas was only days away but we still didn’t have a tree. Living on a college-student’s budget with our first baby due in a few months, my then 23-year-old husband and I were barely scraping by. Every time we passed the tree lot, we slowed down and looked. But then one of us would remind the other why we couldn’t afford to spend that much money on something we didn’t need.
I felt silly telling God how sad I was, how much I wanted a Christmas tree and wished we could afford one. Then I felt guilty knowing others needed so much more.
Driving home from a friend’s the Sunday night before Christmas, J.J. and I noticed the tree lot near our apartment had all their trees marked down to $10! Grins stretched across our faces and we pulled into the lot and walked down every row of trees searching for the perfect spruce for our one-bedroom apartment.
Feeling sentimental and maternal, I realized choosing our first Christmas tree might be as difficult as choosing our first child’s name. I took too long. The sun went down quickly, the tree-lot started to close and the spotlights shut down.
There we were, standing in the pitch dark without a Christmas tree.
Knowing his pregnant wife might have an emotional breakdown, my very creative and patient husband pulled his car into the rows of trees and flashed on his high beams. And standing there in front of me was the cutest tree I’d ever seen.
Barely noticing its droopy branches and a huge gap on one side, I pointed at it and told J.J., “That’s the one I want!”
That night back at our apartment, I wrapped my fingers around a cup of hot cocoa and sat on our couch looking at our tree. I thought about how sad I felt when the darkness made it impossible to see the trees yet when the beams of light illuminated the lot, my heart filled with hope.
Etched in my mind was a picture I wouldn’t forget, a memory that drew me back to another time marked by darkness — a time when I was not choosing but needed to be chosen.
Just when it felt like all my dreams had died and my hope was gone, the Light of God’s unfailing love punctured clouds of darkness and depression surrounding my mind. It happened on another winter’s eve, six years earlier, while I was sitting in the balcony of a church desperately needing to be redeemed. Feeling God’s spirit tugging on my heart, whispering words I longed to hear, I sensed God saying, “Renee, you are the one I want.”
He’d been trying to tell me for years, but I had allowed the wounds of my past and the words of others to convince me that no one would ever want me.
At some point, I think most of us have felt like the little Christmas tree and me. Scarred by disappointments, we wonder if anyone would ever choose us. With gaps that make us feel like candidates for rejection, we hope no one will notice our empty places. Like the fate of my spruce pine, it seems the only way we’ll get chosen is if all the good ones are picked first.
Yet, 1 Peter 2:9 reminds us that through Christ we are chosen:
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
God sent His Son to light our darkness and fill the gaps in our hearts.
Hold onto the truth that God sees you today and declares with all His heart, “You are the one I want!”
Lord, that spruce pine and I have a lot in common. Even with my gaps and broken branches, You chose me and made me part of Your family through Jesus. Thank you for sending Your Son to bring Light in the dark corners of my life and to bring endless hope to my heart.