I’ve been thinking a lot about them.
I asked my husband the other day, as I was idly looking out the car window on the way home from church, if trees growing close together have tangled roots — because it seems like they obviously would — and whether this ever caused a problem. He said, “Not for the trees. It’s only a problem when you’re trying to dig one up.” I didn’t reply. He continued by explaining that’s why he had such a hard time removing some of the ugly landscaping in front of our house.
I might have replied with an, “Mmm hmmm,” as we turned onto our street, or I might not have. I don’t remember. But as he pulled the car into the garage and shifted into park, I turned to him. “Because it’s really a great metaphor for Christianity.”
He looked at me and said, “Explain.”
And so I did. I started with the imagery already present throughout Scripture — off of the top of my head, Psalm 1 and Jeremiah 17, and wherever it is that Jesus talks about Living Water — about trees and fruit and nourishment. In short, the true believer is the tree, which stays close to the source of life (God), and which therefore bears fruit and doesn’t worry about heat or drought. Check it:
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
(Jeremiah 17:7-8 ESV)
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.
(Psalm 1:3-4 ESV)
So you have this gorgeous image of visible health and vitality that springs forth from the life-giving Source. Green leaves, sweet fruit, a sturdy tree that doesn’t get blown away like the chaff. Who in the world doesn’t want this? Who would look at this and say, “No, you know what? I want to be chaff. Useless and blown away with the wind to amount to nothing.” What? No! Everyone wants to be healthy. Everyone wants to be useful. Everyone wants to be whole. Everyone wants to be beautiful. That’s what this tree is, and that is what is offered to you.
You’ve really got to have deep roots to be this tree, though. That will take time and effort and perseverance. You don’t just say a seven-second repeat-after-me-yes-I’m-so-sorry-Jesus-I’m-a-sinner-prayer when you’re seven or seventeen or thirty-seven and then magically morph into this tree. You start as a little baby tree, and you are weak and vulnerable. You have to be nurtured and protected and planted in the right soil and connected to the Source of Life. Your little baby roots just barely touch His goodness, but He’s so good that you can’t get enough. You stretch and you reach deeper to get more. Then through the years, you grow. Deeper and deeper into His word, and He sustains you. It’s really a beautiful image.
But ideally, you’re not alone, and I haven’t even gotten started with this tree thing. More tomorrow!