We recently visited the house where we lived 42 years ago. There were no trees then, only six foot saplings recently planted on what had been flat farmland. Those saplings have grown to mighty oaks and maple. Their limbs stretch from curb to curb forming shaded arbors. They have transformed the landscape.
I have always been struck by the beauty of trees: majestic pecans, towering oaks and whispering pines of Texas, the blue spruce, crab apple and maple of Minnesota, the cottonwood and quaking aspen of Colorado.
Trees are majestic, mysterious and essential to our existence on earth. They sprout from tiny seeds that can be held in the hand. They send their roots deep beneath the earth and extend their limbs to the sky as if in prayer, transforming soil and light into substance. They bear the snow of winter and explode with blossoms in spring. They whisper in a gentle breeze and howl when the storm whips their branches. Their life-giving leaves filter the air to produce the oxygen that we breathe.
They give shelter to the birds that build their nests, perch among their leaves and sing their songs. Forests form the homes and habitat for wildlife. For thousands of years the trees have provided the wood with which we build our homes, fashion our furniture, warm ourselves in winter and produce the paper to preserve our written records. They feed both man and beast with their nuts and fruit.
Trees remind us of those who have gone before, those who planted them and those who lived among them. We sit in their shade in summer as our mothers and fathers sat in an earlier day.
The oldest trees date back more than two millennia. The “Arbol del Tule,” a Montezuma Cypress in Mexico has the widest trunk on earth and may be 3,000 years old. Some of the olive trees in Gethsemane are at least 900 years old and likely descended from the very trees that shadowed Jesus when he prayed.
The “Cotton Tree” in Sierra Leone marks the place where freed slaves gathered beneath its branches to give thanks for their freedom in 1792. “General Sherman,” the Giant Sequoia, one of the largest trees on earth is believed to be between 2,300 and 2,700 years old. The 500 year old “Treaty Oak” in Austin, Texas was once the sacred meeting place for Comanche and Tonkawa Indians. Stephen F. Austin met with them beneath its branches to form the first peace treaty for his colony.
The redemptive story of the Bible begins and ends with trees. It starts with the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” in Genesis and ends with the “Tree of Life” in Revelation. Psalm 96 proclaims, “Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming!”
In the fullness of time God chose a tree in the form of the Cross to accomplish our redemption. The Bible says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree’— in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles.” (Galatians 3:13-14).
Trees remind us of God’s goodness and grace by which he created the beauty of the earth and redeemed us for his glory.
— Bill Tinsley reflects on current events and life experience from a faith perspective. Visit www.tinsleycenter.com. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.