How to make your mark

Around the Lake Shore Trail at Lake Norman State Park, there is an ancient beech tree that has become a memorial for hundreds of hikers. Its smooth, soft, light gray bark invites a person to carve something, as many have done. There are a few initials, some linked with the traditional “+” sign expressing immortal love. One went the extra mile and enclosed the initials with a heart.

Near the root of this tree is simply one word, “Grit”. Of all the words that you would want thousands of passerby’s to see, that’s an unusual word to choose. Maybe he or she was struggling on this moderate six-mile loop.

I’m hoping trees like this are finally catching a break since pen knives are now considered weapons and Facebook is a much easier way to post your status.

This memorial tree and many like it is an expression of a deeper human longing. During our brief time on earth, there is a yearning to be always remembered by leaving a legacy or making a mark – even if it is as superficial as carving a message into a tree. We are made for eternity. But we deceive ourselves by thinking that this longing to be remembered forever can be satisfied by earthly memorials. 

Saint Paul says there is a “more excellent” way to make your eternal mark in this world. Love. He simply states, “Love never ends.” (1 Cor 13:8)  Instead of carving a message on a tree as an act of love, he says true acts of love are “written on ourhearts, to be known and read by all.” (2 Cor 3:2) 

Mother Teresa said repeatedly, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”  Over time, the small things may be forgotten, but the great love underlying these charitable acts never ends.

If you’re looking for a way to make your eternal mark, don’t carve your initials into a tree for all to see. Look instead for hidden ways to carve an act of love onto another’s heart.