A Simple Question

Written by Allie Sampson
Photography by Sydnee Mela and Morgan Campbell

A few years ago, I was in a major season of self-discovery.  I wouldn’t have been able to identify it at the time, but when I look behind me, it’s evident how much space the Lord was making for me to get to know myself.  It was everywhere: assignments to define my preferences and aesthetic in Art Class. An abstract self-portrait assigned for a Photography project. Being given a new instrument and asked to start writing songs.  It showed up in my downtime, too. I spent loads of time in coffeeshops and in the woods, asking God questions and making lists of things I liked. Trying out new books and giving myself permission to stop reading if they weren’t interesting.  Taking countless goofy personality quizzes online…you know the kind: What ‘90s Sitcom Character Are You?, What Power Ballad Should Be Your Theme Song?, What Exotic Animal Would Be Your Disney Sidekick?  Although I didn’t completely understand it, my heart was beginning to open up to being known.  I was in my early twenties and eager to understand myself.

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One late-February evening, I made my way up my long driveway tired but satisfied. It had been a full day of balancing work, classes and friendship, and I was ready to unwind.  Making a point to slow down, I paused on the front porch, staring out into the tree-line in front of me. I took a deep breath and had just started smiling at Jesus when I heard myself ask: “God, if I were a tree, what kind of tree would I be?” I was caught off guard by my own question.  Before I even had time to discredit myself, I heard Him say, “Silver birch.”

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I laughed out loud, surprised twice-over.  I’d never anticipated asking God something so random, and at that time in my life, I certainly didn’t expect Him to respond.  I was shocked by how quickly He’d answered me and overwhelmed with curiosity. I’d never heard of a silver birch tree, and that exciting reality was evidence that I couldn’t have possibly made up what I’d heard.  

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I spent the next several weeks researching silver birch trees: sifting through forestry websites and gardening blogs, searching for qualities, facts and data about this name I’d been given.  I was astonished by what I found. Not only did silver birch trees exist, but they had fascinating attributes that directly lined up with other things God had been speaking to me about. I was blown away that this tree had some of the exact same qualities that the Father had been telling me were a part of my own nature: the ability to grow after devastation, an unstoppable drive to find Water, providing nurturing shade for trees that take more time to establish.  

He was affirming me—speaking to me about me—and I felt remarkably understood.

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For the next eight months, birch trees seemed to be everywhere.  They showed up in novels I was reading, on covers of poetry books, in songs playing in my favorite stores while shopping.  I couldn’t contain my smile, or my tears, as I whispered simple prayers, “You know me. You understand me. Thank you.” My desire to understand myself was even more important to Him than it was to me.  

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I am grateful for this moment—for the simple question that leapt up from the childlike places in my heart and that the Father stepped in before I had a chance to discredit the question or label it as “too ridiculous.”  The Lord met me in my playful nature, and it has changed everything. My previous tendency to believe that I had imagined every playful and light-hearted response I received from God was keeping me from understanding Him and from understanding myself.  Now I give myself space to ask the silly questions, confident that He created and loves every part of me—especially the parts that are childlike, playful and trusting. That question led to a season of me feeling more known by God and more inspired than I’d ever been before.  It led to me writing songs and poems, to confidence and joy, to more questions and more answers. It led to a belief that I am understood.

Prompt:  Have you limited God’s voice to only the serious areas of your life?  When was the last time you asked Him a question, just to see what He says?  Think of a silly question you could ask God about yourself, and then ask Him with confidence.  It could be anything. If you’re having a hard time coming up with an idea, feel free to borrow my question: “God, if I were a tree, what kind of tree would I be?”  Practice courage and don’t discredit the moment. Listen to what He says and journal His voice. Then, do some research and invite the Holy Spirit to help you understand why thinks of you this way.  Savor the feeling of being understood.

Sydnee Mela4 Comments