"And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Psalms 1:3-4)
Lately I've been thinking about trees. I realize this may sound crazy, but I'm now beginning to realize that in order to really appreciate life I must learn to be a tree. Trees, you'll notice, bend with the force applied towards them. They lean into the storm and never try to resist. Those trees that hold rigid are soon uprooted and cast aside and forgotten, while those that surrender to the elements remain rooted for years. I'm now only starting to see that when I am faced with an obstacle, I don't need to fight back. I can just be still and let the attack pass. When I try to fight in my own strength, I always fail. I am exhausted and discouraged and I usually don't win because resisting is futile. It is when I surrender and allow the forces to blow about me that I'm victorious. How silly it would be for a tree to throw up it's branches and attempt to fight the wind, yet I try to fight my own squalls with feeble attempts.
Although I've always been fascinated by trees, I've never really stopped long enough to think about how they symbolize all of the lessons that I need to learn in my life. It's true. I've felt most comfortable around trees. When I was a child, I would spend all of my free time in the woods behind my house. I got such comfort from the green sanctuary and have always felt closest to God when I'm near his creation. Just like Jessie in The Other Side of Through, I have found my own way in life whenever I've made my way to a wooded path. There is just something about trees that make me feel safe, protected and a part of creation. Through the years, I've complained about living in Florida and it wasn't until recently that I realized what it is about Florida that I don't like: It's the fact that, for the most part, I don't have access to the huge, towering trees of my childhood. Trees whose limbs I could climb in or whose leafy branches I could sit beneath. Trees that bore fruit that I could reach up and grab. Filling my mouth with the very taste of God. Yes, many of you will argue that Florida has trees, but, in my opinion, it's not the same sitting beneath a palm tree or a citrus tree.
Trees truly are symbols to help guide me--no, all of us-- in life. Almost every major religion and faith uses the tree as a symbol of humanity and creation. The Bible, The Qur'an and other sacred books speak of The Tree of Knowledge or the Tree of Good and Evil. This tree, whose branches reach up toward the sky, connect the heavens to the earth. It is the fruit from the tree that represents the choices we make-- some better than others--but we always have the freedom to make those choices. Like trees, we are constantly growing. I am not speaking of the growth spurts we have as we move from infancy to childhood or childhood to adolescence, rather the growth we make as we live our lives in an attempt to truly live and to finally get it right. I believe God put trees on earth to remind us of these lessons.
Scientists say that they can tell the age of a tree by counting it's annual rings, but more importantly they can read between the lines of those annual rings to discern even more information. They can learn the climate of the area, whether or not there was sufficient rainfall, and they can learn about parasites and other trauma that the tree may have sustained. Isn't that the same in our lives? We can look at the beautiful faces of people who have lived through some stuff, but we can also read between the lines. We can learn so much from laugh lines and furrowed brows.
The most obvious symbol is that trees bear fruit. It may be an apple, an orange, an olive or a pomegranate. It may not actually be something we eat, like an acorn or a pine cone, but trees produce something. Just like the tree, each of us is producing something in our lives that is meant to sustain someone else. Is the fruit that you're producing helping someone grow as you are growing? Are the trees you're eating from yourself sustaining you or is it time to do some pruning in your life? Do you need to cut back those areas that are not producing what you need or perhaps you need to feed from another vineyard or orchard.
So, as I sit beneath my favorite tree and write this, I realize that I must be a tree and stay planted near all that sustains me so that I can produce fruit at the appointed time that helps someone else.