But what are they, exactly? Burls (or burrs) are usually caused by some sort of stress or damage caused to the tree, often by fungal or insect attack. This damage causes the tree to grow abnormally and form a burl (in this case, four!). While it may look unhealthy on the outside, the inside continues to work as a part of the tree, moving water and nutrients and storing starch. The burl itself does not actually damage the tree.
And although the exterior is quite ugly, burls are in fact quite prized by wood artists. Each burl is, on the inside, an unpredictable mass of twisted and deformed wood grain, which can be used to create beautiful, one-of-a-kind pieces. Don’t go cutting burls off of trees to sell on eBay, though! You’ll damage the tree by leaving a gaping wound. And don’t try to wait around for them to grow on your own trees to make a few bucks…they can take 30 to 40 years to grow to usable size.
Do you have any burls in your life? Any parts of you that you wish were different than they are, or at least closer to “normal?” What you see as ugly, God may see quite differently. I’m not talking about the things you do in your life that you know are wrong. I’m talking about those things in your life that you may see as weakness or ugliness or simply abnormal. Whether physical differences (even beautiful people don’t seem to be happy with what they’ve been given!) or life struggles, they can be used by Him to create something highly valuable.
People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. ~1 Samuel 16:7
He’s concerned most with the condition of our hearts. If it takes some discomfort in this life to draw out that beauty and draw us closer to Him, He’s not afraid to put us on the workbench!
In the same way, how do we look at others and what we see as their shortcomings? We need to be careful. Jesus said,
The standard you use in judging will be the standard by which you will be judged. ~Matthew 7:2
Look inward and outward. God sees significant worth, great enough for Him to die for you and those around you. Can you see it?