John and Paul Baxter liked to play in the woods near their home. They liked to watch the birds fly among the branches. They liked to hear the bluejays scold. They liked when the leaves sang in the cool spring breeze. They liked to stand beside the tall pines that stretched long, bushy arms toward the sky. Sometimes it seemed they almost reached the sky. Another reason the boys liked the woods was because they were always finding something there that they had never seen before.
That’s the way it was the day they discovered the tree that looked as if a knot had been tied in it. The knot was about half way up the tree. The boys looked at it. They walked around it. How could a tree grow that way? the boys wondered. The trunk was at least four inches through the middle. Surely no one could have tied a knot in a tree that was so big.
When Dad came home from work, Paul and John showed him the tree.
“It’s a knot, all right,” Mr. Baxter told his sons. “But it must have been tied a long, long time ago. I think it was tied when the tree was a tiny sapling.” He ran his long fingers over the pattern of the knot as he spoke.
“Maybe this is the way it happened,” he said. “Long ago some boy may have played in these woods just as you do now. When he felt the young sapling, he discovered that it could be bent very easily. Twisting it under and around itself, he tied a knot in it.”
Mr. Baxter examined the tree again. Then he turned back to the boys.
“Do you think you could untie that knot?”
“No, never,” Paul said. “It’s grown together that way now. No one could ever untie the knot.”
“That’s what I wanted you to say,” the boys’ father said. “It’s that way with young fellows like you, too. There’s an old truth that says, ‘As a twig is bent … ’ which means as boys are bent, so the man will grow. The way you start out in life, the habits you make when you are young, will determine the kind of person you will be when you grow up. Knots tied in young boys’ lives are just as hard to untie as this tree knot.”
“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
Dear Lord, we are glad that You can keep our lives free from ugly knots. We thank You for parents, for teachers and for pastors who teach us how to live — so we won’t have any knots in our minds and souls. Help us to choose wisely the things we do. May we always be pleasing to You. In Jesus’ dear name. Amen.
Happy Moments With God, Margaret Anderson, © 1962, 45, 46.