“I am nothing but a barren tree,” writes Isaiah. Sometimes I feel like that. Jeremiah writes, “Blessed is the man/woman who trusts in the Lord and rest his/her confidence upon Him. She shall be like a tree planted by the waterside that stretches its roots along the stream. When heat comes it has nothing to fear; it’s spreading foliage stays green. In a year of drought it feels no care and does not cease to bear fruit.” Sometimes I feel like that.
I’ve always been fascinated by trees, from the huge sequoia and redwoods of California, to the stunted and gnarled cedars growing between the rocks in the canyon lands and the high deserts of Utah. The Joshua tree of the Mojave desert and the wind-worn cypress trees along Monterey Bay speak to something deep within me. I remember, too, the apple trees I once climbed in my childhood—sitting high upon a limb and enjoying its fruit. Trees fascinate me, because trees tell a story. Trees endure, trees still stand. In spite of winds, storms, and catastrophes that have whipped around them for years, they still stand. Trees still stand even when their branches have been stripped from them, or when they no longer bear fruit, or great holes and gaps appear in their trunks. Still they stand! The Bible says, “Look to the hills from whence cometh thy help” and I would add, Look to the trees from whence cometh thy hope!
There are times when we may feel like a barren tree, and at other times like a well-watered and fruitful one. At other times we may feel like a wind-blown cypress along the California coast, or perhaps like a lightning-struck sequoia, or a Joshua tree out in the midst of a barren desert, but look at those trees—they still stand! In trees, I find some sign of abiding hope in spite of life’s buffetings along the pilgrim way. And stand we will…like the trees.
“For me, trees have always been the most penetrating preachers. I revere them when they live in tribes and families, in forests and groves….Trees are sanctuaries. Whoever knows how to speak to them, whoever knows how to listen to them, can learn the truth. They do not preach learning and precepts, they preach, undeterred by particulars, the ancient law of life….A tree says: A kernel is hidden in me, a spark, a thought, I am life from eternal life. The attempt and the risk that the eternal mother took with me is unique, unique the form and veins of my skin, unique the smallest play of leaves in my branches and the smallest scar on my bark. I was made to form and reveal the eternal in my smallest special detail….A tree says: My strength is trust. I know nothing about my fathers, I know nothing about the thousand children that every year spring out of me. I live out the secret of my seed to the very end, and I care for nothing else. I trust that God is in me. I trust that my labor is holy. Out of this trust I live….Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.” (Hermann Hesse)