Continued from last month:
After reading the Tolkien short story, I felt like maybe — just maybe — Tolkien and I experienced some of the same feelings in life. And then I thought about Niggle some more, and I realized we are all Niggle. Every one of us.
In the story, you come to find out that the house in which Niggle painted was sold. Only a few people admired the canvas on the wall with the “beautiful leaf.” It wasn’t long until Niggle was forgotten in the world before his death, before his journey. His hard work and diligent efforts to complete his painting had gone unfinished and proved beneficial to only a few people. However, in “life thereafter,” Niggle found his tree. It was finished and grander than he could have ever imagined. He would get to enjoy it forever.
I believe that every one of us has a vision of a “tree” that we can’t shake. Levels deeper than anything else in our life is perhaps a picture we set out to paint. Some of us only get a few leaves outlined and colored in, while others make their way to the branches. In the end, the small bits of the big picture we unveil to people on Earth are a vision of the true and everlasting life after death.
Drumming is a talent God gave me before I even knew it was there. I aspire to accomplish and perfect the type of musician I set out to be since I first picked up those sticks. The reality is this: No matter how astronomical my accomplishments in life, they won’t be an empire that’s left standing long after I’m dead and gone.
The perfectionist in us creates enormous visions of the world we uniquely imagine and dream about living in, and few of us will ever come close to meeting the perfection we have in mind. But isn’t it the case that even the best intentions, the most ambitious efforts, the most hopeful attempts will all end in nothing? Yes, that is correct … unless God truly exists.
If indeed the Christian God exists, then everything in life matters — for all of eternity. Whether you are a musician or a lawyer, a college student or a single mother, you need to know that there really is a tree. You have your part to play in setting out to paint the parts of it you see in your heart.
Perhaps you know the details of a leaf and can illustrate water drops and needles stemming off of it as if it’s an inch from your face. Or maybe the branches that tower out like arms are the natural focus for you. Whatever your perspective, you are able to introduce God, to share the hope we have in Him with others around you.
Tim Keller, author of “Every Good Endeavor,” understands the freedom Tolkien found in writing his short story. Keller discusses “Leaf by Niggle” in the introduction to his book about finding value in your work. He says, “The whole tree that you seek — the beauty, harmony, justice, comfort, joy and community — will come to fruition. If you know all this, you won’t be despondent because you can get only a leaf or two out in this life. You will work with satisfaction and joy. You will not be puffed up by success or devastated by setbacks.”
Can we believe that about our lives? Whether you’re a dishwasher or an astronaut, a garbage man or a doctor, you are responsible for completing your part of the painting and showing the world the part of the picture that only you can paint.
Should you awake tomorrow to find your lungs still filled with air, let it serve as a reminder: If you see leaves all around you, then there really is a tree.