A/N: SO, this is an essay involving the Christian Religion and my personal faith. Please enjoy. If you see misspellings let me know, but no flames please.

The Pine Tree

At my old house, an army of dark green trees guard over the yard. On the right side of their ranks,

several soldiers form a canopy of leaves that block the sun. A dirt path snakes under their green arms

and winds through the woods. Inside, the forest comes to life. Birds flitted from tree to tree and trill in

joy, and other woodland creatures scurry through the leaves. At the back of the woods, a baby pine tree

once stood – my pine tree. I lived with these woods from the moment my parents brought me home for

the first time.

Around my fourth birthday, my father led me through the woods – as he often did – when we

discovered a pine sapling. Dad crouched next to me when I asked him why the tree was smaller than

the others. "It may be small now," he explained, covering my chubby hand with his, "but one day, it'll

grow into a strong tree like the others." Eyes wide with wonder, I stared at the tree and couldn't quite

believe the sprig would grow into a towering mass like the trees around me. A few moments later, Dad

tugged on my hand, and we made our way back to the house, leaving the lively woods behind.

Before my brother and I were born, my mom insisted to my dad that her children would grow up in

church – like her – and my dad agreed to her request. As such, I went to church even while my mother

carried me in the womb. I grew up with the pastor's children, and Greenbrier Baptist Church was as

much of a home to me as my house. Therefore, it came as no surprise that I never gained some

inspiring tale of finding my salvation. No, my salvation came on cat's feet. It developed as naturally as

a fish learning to swim. However, the day I accepted Jesus as my savior publicly would be imprinted

on my mind. That Sunday, twiddling her thumbs, a six-year-old me perched on the third row of pews.

Pastor Chuck began the invitation to the front, and ever-enthusiastic, I raced from my seat to tell him

about my decision. Strong hands clasped on my shoulders, he told me how proud he was. A few short

weeks later, and he baptised me in front of the congregation. That was it. That simple confession of

faith was the most important decision in my life.

From then on, my faith only grew – childlike at first. At the age of eight, I joined the Girls in Action

program or . This program focused mainly on missionary work along with developing a

foundation in the Bible. Each week, Mrs. Jackie prepared a lesson for us girls, and every so often, we

even spoke with missionaries who lived over seas. As I made friends with the other girls in class, it

became tradition for us to explore my woods and visit my pine tree, which was how I spent the next

four years of my church life. During this time, people came and went from Greenbrier, but I stayed and

learned more about my Savior. Then, after I turned twelve, I moved up to the youth group and met one

of the most influential men in my life – Brandon my youth pastor.

When I joined the youth group, everyone called it the most inspirational part of Greenbrier. The

students were a family, and even as a new member, I felt God's presence within that family. Instead of

their closeness alienating me as I feared, they embraced me and made me a part of the group. I

attributed this mainly to Brandon because he always went out of his way to include me. He was always

there for me. Additionally, Brandon's hunger to know God was infectious. I saw his fire for Jesus, and

I wanted it. For a short time, I had that fire.

As I grew close God, I spent more time in the woods – by myself mostly. Surrounding myself with

the glory of God's creation helped me feel His presence and a peace that escapes description. One day,

after wandering to the back of the woods, I glimpsed my pine and remembered my dad's words. Nine

years was a long time to grow, and the pine had flourished over the years. A few of the older branches

swept across the path and nearly blocked it entirely. Regardless, I never minded. I had watched it

grow from a sapling, and it was special to me. I saw God's beauty in the life of that tree – His beauty in

everything. I'd never felt closer to God. I soon learned how quickly that could change.

I noticed the first inkling of unease while at a Christian concert with my youth group. At some point

in the evening, I realized that Taylor, the pastor's daughter, kept leaving the concert with Brandon.

However, I let my other friends and the music distract me and dismissed Taylor's strange behavior –

until Sunday. Church seemed normal at first, perhaps a little odd that Pastor Chuck did not preach, but

he had missed other Sundays in the past. After the service, Brandon called for church members to stay

late. I was confused and a little exasperated since I had made plans to hang out with a friend that day.

We unanimously canceled these plans at the announcement that Chuck had temporarily stepped down

from the pulpit due to his inappropriate conduct with women. Even as we all stood and headed to our

cars, the news failed to sink in. It felt like I was in suspended disbelief. My pastor did that? The same

pastor that baptised me and taught me so much was forced to step down?

It all spiraled down from there.

Over the next two months, more truths came to light. More women stepped forward with new

information. More serious charges like a possible attempted rape were laid upon Chuck, and I soon

realized that Chuck could never come back. Therefore, it hardly surprised me when the deacons read

his official resignation letter one Sunday. The loss of my childhood pastor hurt, but I felt more anger

than sorrow towards him. When he left, he took more than half the congregation with him, including

my closest friend. The church nearly fell apart. In fact, the only thing that kept me together was my

family and Brandon. The loss of our pastor weighed on everyone, but Brandon stayed, tellling us it

would work out in the end if we trusted God. Soon, the church elected a pastor search committee and,

within a year, a new pastor. We thought the church was starting to mend.

We thought wrong. Our new pastor David acted like a nice guy when I met him. However, we

learned over time that he disliked the music service and adamantly believed that women had no place

in leadership. Murmurs of discontent spread in the congregation, but one person placed themself on

David's side: my teacher and friend Brandon.

On Sunday, May 27, 2012, to the shock of the entire congregation and church leadership aside from

David, Brandon announced his resignation – to take place in one week. It devastated me. More than

Chuck's scandal, more than losing so many church members, Brandon's abandonment shredded my

heart. Next Sunday, we held a goodbye dinner for him, and after it ended, I was the last person to say

my goodbyes to him. I couldn't stop sobbing, so he hugged me and just sat with me as I

cried. When I quieted down, he promised, "You know, I'll still be there for you." That pained me much

worse because he gave me hope. He gave me an empty promise since he stopped being there for me

after that.

The day he left, when I returned home, I bolted straight for the woods, tears blurring my vision. In

my distress, I failed to see the tree branches in my way and tripped. Furious, I glared up at the pine

tree – my pine tree. Suddenly, I hated that tree, so I retrieved a pair of clippers from the house and

severed every branch that faced the path. The pain from the past year finally caught up with me and

hardened my heart towards God. For the next year, I did not go through my woods and visit the tree.

I learned the difficulty of overcoming that kind of tragedy. At first, I didn't want to trust

God with my heart again. If I was his child, why had he put me through so much? Slowly though,

time played its part, and my wounded heart began to heal. The church eventually convinced David

to step down because he caused more harm than good even going so far as to question my father's – a

deacon – salvation. Since the church was again without a pastor or youth pastor, my dad stepped up

and became the official pastor of Greenbrier. Each week, listening to my dad's messages, the wall

around my heart cracked a little more until it crumbled, and I begged God for forgiveness. I apologized

for shutting him out and doubting him. Finally, I felt the peace I had missed for so long once more.

In March of 2014, we moved out of our house, the only house I ever knew, but before we left, I

walked through the woods one last time. As I made my way to the spot I was so familiar with, I

remembered all the good times with the G.A.s and God. When I reached that old tree, time had healed

it as well. The branches once more threatened to overtake the path, but if I looked closer, I could see

the marks where I cut away the branches. However, it had grown around that. It had persevered and

triumphed. Taking a step back, I realized that the pine tree was full grown now, just as Dad had

promised, yet I knew that even though it had matured, it still had room to keep flourishing. With that

comforting thought, I took one last look and returned home.

The similarities between that pine tree and I are hard to miss. Throughout my life, my faith grew

like that pine tree. It flourished quickly but was pruned in my anger. Eventually, it grew back. It

healed and came back stronger than before. Today, the pine is still growing, and I know that my faith is

too. There will be good days and bad. Storms will come and break a few branches. However, it won't

die so easily. I will persevere.

The End

A/N: Okay, so, this is my final paper in Composition III. It's a true story and a personal essay - really more of a narrative, but this is what my teacher is calling them - and it was rather difficult to talk about. HOWEVER, I'm proud of my story and what I wrote, so I wanted to share. If you read it and liked it, let me know. Please, no attacks on my faith. It won't bother me, but I just wanted to put this out and leave it.

Hope you liked it!