Friday, April 24, 2009
“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.”
There were these giant Willow Oak trees in my yard back home when I was growing up. They were huge, especially the ones in the back yard by the stream that ran on the left side of and behind the yard by the neighbor’s fence. One of these trees was rooted right by the stream at the back of our property. This tree forked into two huge trunks at about eight feet off the ground. I loved this tree. It was enormous. It was so big and impressive, that I decided one day to build a tree house in it. There were no plans or designs; I just started building, taking the wood from a contractor’s garage, which was left over from our home’s construction. I didn’t stop building until I had a mini palace built into the trunks of this huge Willow Oak Tree. This was no ordinary tree house and was very impressive for an eleven year old. It is even impressive for this 35 year old man, as I reflect back on it.
One would think that the spikes that I nailed to this tree to hold up my 30 square foot tree fort, complete with roof, door, window, furniture, and a look-out tower would have killed this mammoth tree, but no it stood there strong as ever, even years after I had to dismantle my 18 foot high tree kingdom. This tree even withstood the fire bombs we built beneath it, the years that wore it down and Hurricane Hugo back in 1989. This old tree seemed timeless and indestructible. I felt connected to it and it was very much a part of my adolescence.
The other trees that have had significance in my life were the old Loblolly Pine and Cypress Trees in the Congaree National Swamp, ten miles outside the city of Columbia. The state champion loblolly pine, found along the park's lower boardwalk, which goes through the swamp, is about 155 feet tall and is slightly over 15 feet in circumference. Best estimates for the age of this tree are around 200 to 250 years old. Some of the Cypress trees are old-growth bald cypress varying from 16 to 26 feet in circumference, and sometimes reach up to 132 feet tall and they can be up to 1000 years old. These trees are magical, kind of like my Willow Oak Tree in my back yard growing up.
What makes all these trees so enormous and beautiful and what makes them endure time, weather, and natural disaster is their strength that is from their nutrient rich soil and the access of their root systems to an abundance of water. Without the nutrients and the abundance of water, these trees would not stand as tall, they would not endure, and they would not be so magnificent.
I remember the day when my tree finally fell. It was a few short years after the little stream behind our home was piped in by the Highway Department in order to divert rain water more effectively out of our neighborhood. My old friend did not stand a chance. The source of his drink had been tapped and he was left out to dry. For decades this tree had enjoyed an abundance of life giving water, and just like that, it was over.
I found out years later that the neighborhood popular masses had been requesting that these streams be piped and diverted for aesthetics and property value, and so this was the fate of the Old Oak. Its years of strength, and the timeless character that had endured Hurricanes, were snuffed out by some business-minded housewives, brokers, wheelers and dealers, and the South Carolina Department of Transportation in what amounted to about a week and a half’s worth of time. I stood and watched them place the pipe, and I watched as they covered them over. Then, years later, I witnessed the tree’s fall, and I split the wood to be burned in the winter’s fires.
The Loblolly and the cypress, well, they still stand out in the swamp’s nutrient rich water filled bottom land out by the Congaree River, just as grand as they have always been.
These trees haunt me and so does the scripture from Jeremiah 17:7-8: “But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, Serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.”
I cannot help but to think of the times that I did not trust God and how I still struggle to trust Him even now. I cannot help but think of the times where I wither like my Willow Oak Tree because I have diverted Jesus’ living waters by refusing it, or thinking I don’t need it, or because I just want to go my own way, or do my own thing. At times I have chosen aesthetics and things of worldly value over Him. There are times I have been about my own business and not the business of His kingdom. I have taken dry and barren back yards over rich, lush, Eden like, water flowing soils of swampy bottom lands down by the river. I have diverted the stream, piped it up, and covered it over.
Jesus says in John 4: 13-14, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” Jesus goes on to say in John 7:37-38, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way.”
May we not divert His stream. May we come to Jesus and drink. Would we be like the tree in Jeremiah that is planted by the river in Eden. Drinking from this water, may we not worry, and never drop a leaf, but experience a serene calm and produce fruit bountifully, and beautifully, like the giant Cypress Trees and the Loblolly Pines.
Drinking from His fountain,
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Je 17:7-8
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Jn 4:13-14
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Jn 7:37-38