I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is prest against the earth’s sweet flowing breast; A tree that looks at God all day, And lifts her leafy arms to pray; A tree that may in Summer wear a nest of robins in her hair; upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree. (Joyce Kilmer)
My father’s favorite poem… I inherited the green thumb from him. We’ve spent many hours together in the dirt, at his place and mine. We shopped greenhouses, garden catalogs, and local nurseries. Each birthday and Father’s Day, I took him to his place of choice to buy plant material. Sophisticated horticultural types always use that terminology, but to me and Dad, they are still just flowers.
So, ten years ago, when he could still walk independently at nearly 80, we took in one of our annual joys, a lawn and garden show. A local arbor society passed out slips: tiny baby trees. I put mine in my purse, wrapped in a paper napkin snitched from a food vendor. No bigger than a Number 2. pencil, my little swamp oak traveled 70 miles in my handbag to its new home. I took a shovel, stuck it in the ground, rocked it a little, and stuffed the slip in the crevasse. A few stomps around the dirt, a prayer for rain, and the swamp oak began a new life, 100 miles from the mother tree.
I was amazed to see it take root. For the southeastern states in the United States, drought is a fact of life, and so are deluges of thunderstorms. Take your pic; you’ll be blessed with either when neither is appreciated. After about three years or so, a workman backed over my swamp oak, uprooting it out of the ground. It lay on its side, roots exposed until I discovered it. One swing to the upright position, and a few more stomps, and a prayer; now it stands twenty feet tall: perfectly straight, balanced, and lovely.
The photo above is of my actual tree taken a few days ago. The winters are usually mild here, but this year has been episodically brutal. Stress will kill a tree; but a good stock, healthy root system, integral bark, and hydration will sustain most of them. As a Master Gardener, I actually studied this.
The spiritual parallels are deep. We start off, pencil thin in our faith, and the storms of life rock us just enough to stimulate deepening root systems. Like a tree, we become wise to drink in when possible, preparing for the inevitable drought to come. We may be carried far from home, but our loving Gardener knows exactly where to plant us, and how to nourish us. When we are inadvertently, or even deliberately, backed over, He is able to apply a few well placed stomps to assure us of survival.
Psalms 1: 2-3 says: But his delight is in the law of the LORD. And in His law he meditates day and night. He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season. And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers.
There are no streams by my swamp oak, but it prospers. The conditions are ideal for growth. If I were to prohibit water from filling it, deprive it of sunlight, weed whack its bark into near death (a common form of tree-suicide), my oak would have withered and died long ago.
How is it that we, as God’s children, expect to leaf out all the way to the top if we deprive ourselves of the living water of the Word? Or, if we hide ourselves from the Son, where do we expect to develop our energy from? Like a tree photosynthesizing in its leaves, we need regular exposure every day to His warmth and glow for survival. Who do you expect to push you upright when life backs over you if you have not caught the eye of the Master Gardener? I would have let my little three year old tree die if I had not been watching regularly its condition.
Our Sovereign Lord will hear the cry for help of one who has been ambushed by life’s storms, droughts, or accidents. He is ready and able to repair us, nourish us, and sustain us. He wants us to survive into the beautiful tall oak He envisions when He brings us in His satchel and places us on this earth.
Think of His loving hands as He scoops up the dirt of your life and gently pats those broken areas into new foundations. His eye is on you, friend. Bask in His Son and drink from the living water that is a sure prescription for growth, survival, and new leaves after the winter in your life. Be planted by His river and flourish. You are lovelier than any of His trees.