I’ve been thinking a lot about trees lately. I am working on some Bible studies in which I believe a tree will be prominent. This is not surprising because the Bible includes a plethora of tree/vine/branch/root/plant and seed analogies. I tend to do my best thinking either at my kitchen window or on my bed. Both of these places provide a great view of the maple tree that grows in front of our town house, and God has been using the tree to teach me a lesson. I have written about this tree before. (Golden Moments Passing By) It’s really a pretty tree. It is, or was, nicely shaped, is a very bright and happy yellow green when its leaves come out in the spring and in the fall it turns a gorgeous orangey-yellow gold from the outside in. I like it.
Unfortunately for the tree, its location is less than ideal. It is planted in the peninsula of lawn that separates the two parking spaces that go with our house from the two parking spaces that go with our neighbor’s house. Our neighbor is, shall we say, “cranky.” She once asked me to tell the parents who came to my house to pick up their girls from small group not to turn around in her space. They weren’t parking, mind you, just turning. So, anyway, she hates the poor tree and has been on a campaign to get the homeowners association to remove it. Several weeks ago the lawn service came around and trimmed our trees and bushes. They cut a couple of small branches off the maple tree. Last week they came back. A man came to our door and asked George to move our car so that he could further trim the tree. Seems our neighbor complained that the previous trimming was much too minimal. This time they did the job thoroughly. I’m not sure what the tree will look like when its leaves return, but for now it looks like a really tall, skinny man with all of his hair standing straight up. All of the branches that grew over the parking spaces were removed. Some of these were very large branches.
The day they trimmed the tree was cold and overcast, but the next day was bright and warm and sunny. I was sitting at the kitchen table when I noticed that the tree was dripping. It was not and had not been raining, but drops were falling from the tree as if a shower had recently passed over. I went out to investigate. Water was running out of every place on the tree where a branch had been removed. The tree was standing there in the bright sunshine and it was weeping.
I am very sure there is a biological explanation for this. Even though I am a humanities teacher and not a scientist, I know enough to assume that the tree was drawing up water into the branches as it usually does in the warm sunshine, and this water was running out of the newly made wounds. Still, the fact that there is a biological explanation does not stop the humanities teacher in me from seeing the obvious metaphor.
Wounds are painful. Our lives can be like trees. We are planted and we grow; dreams are built like bird nests in our branches; our roots go deep, gentle breezes whisper through our leaves and sometimes storms almost blow us over; some years it rains plenty and other years our leaves curl up in the drought, turn brown and fall off early. All of these are metaphors. The Bible uses another metaphor, one that tenders of trees and vines use to induce growth. The Bible speaks of pruning.
Pruning is especially painful because it is not random. Storms and droughts come to everyone alike, but pruning is purposeful and tailored to the tree. The tree trimmer who knows what he is doing cuts off the branches in a way that makes the tree better. God is like that. He prunes us and makes us fruitful, and more beautiful. It hurts, though. Sometimes the grief just pours out of the wounds and onto the ground. I know our maple tree is just a tree, but I have longed to comfort it. I sit and watch it cry, and my heart hurts. I understand the tree because some days, even in the sunshine, the grief rises and I can’t seem to stop it from pouring out of my wounds, but as I see the tree, Jesus sees me, and He cares for me, oh, so very much more.