Leadership Letters
Leadership Letters

Writings on Christian leadership and leader development by Malcolm Webber

October 2016
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Leadership Letters

Self-Giving Leadership

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

Read this parable of the bamboo if you would serve in leadership.

On the hillsides in Kucheng District the most valuable trees are often marked with the owner’s name. A common way of conveying water from the mountain springs down to the villages is in channels made of lengths of bamboo fitted one to the other.

A beautiful tree stood among scores of others on a lovely hillside, its stem dark and glossy, its beautiful feathery branches gently quivering in the evening breeze.

As we admired it we became conscious of a gentle rustling of the leaves, and a low murmur was distinctly heard:

You think me beautiful, you admire my tall stem and graceful branches, but I have nothing to boast of. All I have I owe to the loving care of my Master. It was He who planted me here in this very beautiful hill, where my roots, reaching down to and dwelling in hidden springs, and continually drinking of their life-giving water, receive nourishment, refreshment, beauty and strength for my whole being.

Do you see those trees to one side, how miserable and parched they are? Their roots have not yet reached the living springs. Since I have found the hidden waters I have lacked nothing.

You observe those characters on my stem? Look closely – they are cut into my very being. The cutting process was painful – I wondered at the time why I had to suffer – but it was my Master’s own hand that used the knife, and when the work was finished, with a throb of unutterable joy, I recognized it was His own name He had cut on my stem. Then I knew beyond doubt that He loved and prized me, and wanted all the world to know I belonged to Him. I may well make it my boast that I have such a Master.

Even as the tree was telling us of its Master, we looked around, and lo! the Master Himself stood there. He was looking with love and longing on the tree, and in His hand He held a sharp axe.

“I have need of thee,” He said. “Art thou willing to give thyself to Me?”

“Master,” replied the tree, “I am all Thine own – but of what use can such as I be to Thee?”

“I need thee,” said the Master, “to take My living water to some dry, parched places where there is none.”

“But Master, how can I do this? I can dwell in Thy living springs and imbibe their waters for my own nourishment. I can stretch up my arms to heaven, and drink in Thy refreshing showers, and grow strong and beautiful, and rejoice that strength and beauty alike are all from Thee, and proclaim to all what a good Master Thou art. But how can I give water to others? I but drink what suffices for my own food. What have I to give to others?”

The Master’s voice grew wondrously tender as He answered, “I can use thee if thou art willing. I would fain cut thee down and lop off all thy branches, leaving thee naked and bare, then I would take thee right away from this thy happy home among the other trees, and carry thee out alone on the far hillside where there will be none to whisper lovingly to thee – only grass and a tangled growth of briers and weeds. Yes, and I would still use the painful knife, for all those barriers within thy heart should be cut away one by one, till there is a free passage for My living water through thee.

“Thou wilt die, thou sayest; yea, My own tree, thou wilt die, but My Water of Life will flow freely and ceaselessly through thee. Thy beauty will be gone indeed. Henceforth, no one will look on thee and admire thy freshness and grace, but many, many will stoop and drink of the life-giving stream which will reach them so freely through thee. They may give no thought to thee it is true, but will they not bless thy Master who has given them His water through thee? Art thou willing for this, My tree?”

I held my breath to hear what the answer would be. “My Master, all I have and am is from Thee. If Thou indeed hast need of me, then I gladly and willingly give my life to Thee. If only through my dying Thou canst bring Thy living water to others, I consent to die. I am Thine own. Take and use me as Thou wilt, my Master.”

And the Master’s face grew still more tender, but He took the sharp axe and with repeated blows brought the beautiful tree to the ground. It rebelled not, but yielded to each stroke, saying softly, “My Master, as Thou wilt.” And still the Master held the axe, and still He continued to strike till the stem was severed again, and the glory of the tree, its wondrous crown or featherly branches, was lost to it forever.

Now indeed it was naked and bare – but the love-light in the Master’s face deepened as He took what remained of the tree on His shoulders, and amid the sobbing of all its companions, bore it away, far, far over the mountains.

But the tree consented to all for the love of the Master, murmuring faintly, “My Master, where Thou wilt.”

Arrived at a lonely and desolate place, the Master paused, and again His hand took a cruel-looking weapon with sharp pointed blade, and this time thrust it right into the very heart of the tree – for He would make a channel for His living waters, and only through the broken heart of the tree could they flow unhindered to the thirsty land.

Yet the tree repined not, but still whispered with breaking heart, “My Master, Thy will be done.”

So the Master with the heart of love and the face of tenderest pity dealt the painful blows and spared not, and the keen-edged steel did its work unfalteringly till every barrier had been cut away, and the heart of the tree lay open from end to end, and the Master’s heart was satisfied.

Then again He raised it and gently bore it, wounded and suffering, to where unnoticed till now, a spring of living water, clear as crystal, was bubbling up. There He laid it down – one end just within the healing waters. And the stream of life flowed in, right down the heart of the tree from end to end, along all the road made by the cruel wounds – a gentle current to go on flowing out, ever flowing, never ceasing, and the Master smiled and was satisfied.

Then the Master returned to His tree and lovingly asked, “My tree, dost thou now regret the loneliness and suffering? Was the price too dear – the price for giving the living water to the world?” And the tree replied, “My Master, no, a thousand times no!”

Written by B.E. Newcombe
Source: No Other Foundation by DeVern Fromke
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