This morning I had some errands to run and on the way home, I rode on the bike/running/walking path that follows Indian Creek. There is a favorite place I like to stop from time to time. A bench sits on the bluff overlooking the creek. Across the stream in the back yard of a house that also overlooks the creek, is a huge sycamore tree. I love that tree. In fact, there is a sign in front of the bench detailing how sycamore and cottonwood trees live along streams. (I have blogged about it before.) The tree is five feet in diameter, over 90 feet in height, and is 208 years old. As most trees do, the trunk splits into two or three large branches as it ascends into the blue sky. One of the main branches has a jagged split in it center. Most likely the split is the result of a lightning strike at some point. Aside from that, the tree seems to be in great health. The sign in front suggests it began life in the same year Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated as president. The tree has been a fixture next to Indian Creek since the creek had no name and no bike trail. I’m sure the people getting exercise next to it in the early years, were native Americans. Although the surrounding topography and civilization has changed throughout its life, it still draws its life-blood from the creek. It’s not a big creek, it’s not the wide Mississippi, it’s not even the Missouri, or even the lowly Arkansas, but it certainly has supported a large tree.
Its surprizing how the natural world grows beauty in the most unlikely places, using the most ordinary of elements: water, soil, and light. And the beauty isn’t marred by the tragedies endured. In fact the flaws merely enhance the spectacular display. Just as in the tree, the jagged crack from lightning inspires me of the strength of the tree. It endured tragedy which has now become part of its character. The Bible suggests we aren’t unlike this great old tree:
Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither.
Whatever he does prospers.
Not so the wicked!
They are like chaff
that the wind blows away.
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous.
For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
All of us get our share of lightning strikes. There may have been times of drought when our souls seemed to cough with emptiness. But during drought, the sycamore tree’s roots stretch outward while underground to reach new moisture. The tree might not grow in height, but it surely grows in depth just to stay alive. The growth is underground,
the growth in the root system gives greater stability for the tree to grow taller in the next growing season, and in years to come. The same is true for those of us who allow the tragedy in our lives to drive us to unseen moments where we stretch our roots to search for the living water available to our thirsty souls. While our growth is below the surface
It serves to prepare us for the beauty to come. Our souls are deepened.
Our wounds develop character; a trophy to God’s sufficiency…