Journal entry 022411: Finest moment

David pointed out a big pine tree standing about fifteen away. It had no branches for the first 10’ from the ground but had a dark-brown basketball-sized knot about head high. David called it a burl, and said it was prized among woodworkers for turning bowls and such. Something terrible had to have happened to the tree to create that burl, and our group of hikers talked about how tragedies can turn into value.

There were six in our group, and we were taking a break alongside The Bowl Trail in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park, on our way to Hunter Peak. It was beautiful day, about 70 degrees, but the wind was blowing fiercely. Fortunately all its energy was spent rattling the tree tops and not on us. We were sitting in calm contemplation, telling stories of our past adventures and recovering from a long, sustained climb.

David’s comment about the burl captured my attention and, later, after I got back home to internet access, I looked it up. “A burl is a growth on a tree that is very rare and most often occurs when the tree has been damaged usually either by some sort of fungus or mold, or an insect attack. It often looks like a big round tumor growing on the trunk of the tree.”

It occurred to me that if you were to ask the tree about the valuable burl, it would not be so proud of it, but probably ashamed of the bulbous scar and reminded of the deep wound that caused it.

I thought of a scene from the move, Apollo 13, when the NASA Director said, “This could be the worst disaster NASA’s ever faced.” Gene Kranz (played by Ed Harris) replied: “With all due respect, sir, I believe this is going to be our finest moment.”

In our own lives we often can’t get past the story of the deep wound to see the beauty. We are still too close and still hurting from the tragedy to imagine any value.

Brennan Manning wrote (The Ragamuffin Gospel): “Genuine self-acceptance is not derived from the power of positive thinking, mind-games, or pop psychology. It is an act of faith in the God of grace.” We have to trust God that our wounds can become something valuable.

Not to say every wound is good. They aren’t. Not to say all disasters become our finest moment. They don’t. But some do.

We need community - we need other people - we need each other - to see those beautiful parts of our life and remind us of our best features. We’re often too close to see our own finest moments.


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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