This story has much to teach us about sacrifice and service. The abundant life is the result of a willingness to be used by God in a manner not of one's own choosing.
Once upon a time, in the heart of a certain kingdom was a beautiful garden. Of all the dwellers in the garden, the most beautiful and beloved to the master of the garden was a noble, splendid Bamboo. Year after year, Bamboo grew yet more beautiful and gracious. He was conscious of his master's love, yet he was modest and in all things gentle.
Often when Wind came to revel in the garden, Bamboo would throw aside his dignity. He would dance and sway merrily, tossing and leaping and bowing in joyous abandon. He would lead the great dance of the garden that most delighted his master's heart.
One day the master himself drew near to look at this Bamboo with eyes of curious expectancy. And Bamboo, in a passion of love, bowed his head to the ground in joyful greeting. The master spoke: "Bamboo, I would use you."
Bamboo flung his head to the sky in utter delight. The day of days had been growing hour by hour, the day in which he would find his completion and destiny! His voice came low: "Master, I am ready, use me as you want."
"Bamboo," the master's voice was grave, "I would be obliged to take you and cut you down."
A trembling of great horror shook Bamboo. "Cut ... me ... down? Me -- whom you, master, have made the most beautiful in all your garden? Cut me down? Ah, not that, not that. Use me for your joy, oh master, but cut me not down."
"Beloved Bamboo," the master's voice grew graver still, "if I do not cut you down, I cannot use you." The garden grew still. Wind held her breath. Bamboo slowly bent his proud and glorious head. Then came a whisper. "Master, if you cannot use me unless you cut me down, then do your will and cut."
"Bamboo, beloved Bamboo, I would cut your leaves and branches from you also."
"Master, master, spare me. Cut me down and lay my beauty in the dust, but would you take from me my leaves and branches also?"
"Bamboo, alas! If I do not cut them away, I cannot use you."
The sun hid her face. A listening butterfly glided fearfully away. Bamboo shivered in terrible expectancy, whispering low. "Master, cut away."
"Bamboo, Bamboo. I would divide you in two and cut out your heart, for if I do not cut so, I cannot use you."
"Master, master, then cut and divide."
So the master of the garden took Bamboo and cut him down and hacked off his branches and stripped his leaves and divided him in two and cut out his heart and, lifting him gently, carried him to where there was a spring of fresh, sparkling water in the midst of the master's dry fields. Then putting down one end of broken Bamboo into the spring and the other end into the water channel in his field, the master laid down gently his beloved Bamboo.
The spring sang welcome. The clear sparkling water raced joyously down the channel of Bamboo's torn body into the waiting fields. Then the rice was planted and the days went by. The shoots grew. The harvest came. In that day was Bamboo, once so glorious in his stately beauty, yet more glorious in his brokenness and humility.
For in his beauty he was life abundant. But in his brokenness he became a channel of abundant life to his master's world.
Chinese folk tale.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.