the giant tree on a stormy morning

Posted: November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

We have a huge tree on the back corner of our property – actually, it straddles the line between our yard and the neighbor’s.  It is big enough around that I suppose it might take 4 adults holding hands to reach around it.  One long branch extends over and well-beyond our garage in one direction.  Other branches reach over our house.  The one that looks longest of all, from my vantage point at least, covers a vast portion of the neighbor’s back yard.  The branches of our mega-tree and many others form what my mom dubbed a “squirrel highway;” we often enjoy sitting at our kitchen table and watching the neighborhood squirrels race across the branches like something out of a children’s jungle adventure movie.

Because of the sheer immensity of the tree, I often say that we “live under a tree.”  It is beautiful in spring and summer and incredible in fall.  It does present us with challenges as well – billions of ants reside there it seems, and we battle constantly to keep them from invading and taking over our kitchen, which they firmly believe belongs to them.  There is a point in spring or early summer when it sheds a lot of icky stuff – you don’t want to park under it then.  In the fall, it unloads a pretty astonishing number of leaves.  And, most importantly, during storms like the one we had through last night and into this morning, it presents a slightly terrifying specter in the thought of what the wind might bring down on us.

This is no idle thought made up just for an excuse to worry.  Apparently before we lived here, a single branch (itself tree-sized) broke off the tree and took out our entire kitchen.  The landlord next door to the south, a pastor, tells me that he drives over to check every time the wind blows, praying as he comes that the tree hasn’t come down and taken the house with it.  He looked into having the thing removed, but that would be a $15,000 proposition, he said – not in his budget at this time.  I’m guessing the neighbors to the east sweat the storms as well; while the tree doesn’t sit on their property, if it came down in their direction, it could easily take out part of their house.

So this morning the wind is howling, and our windows are rattling, and each time a bigger wind picks up, a certain moan rises at the northwest corner of the house that might bother me if I were afraid of ghosts, and the giant tree is for sure on my mind.  I was out awhile ago to drive G to work, and saw branches the size of trees down in yards as I went, which only solidified the possibility in my mind.  I think of our upstairs neighbors, and wonder how they sleep at night in this weather, since it would be THEIR part of the house most likely first broken, should the tree give way.

I don’t lose my mind over the tree.  I slept well last night.  It doesn’t steal my overall peace.  It’s just a thing that comes to mind as the wind picks up.  Since we are just renters, solving the problem of the tree isn’t for us.  We can choose to stay or to move elsewhere, and that’s pretty much the limit of our choices for response to the problem of the tree.  Thus far, the danger hasn’t seemed sufficient to motivate us to get a new address.

I have one of those minds that sees signs, symbols, and stories everywhere I look.  This is the way I process my reality; I understand it better as I see things representing other things.  The big tree really speaks to me, on that front.

I think of the big tree as being like someone who has known and walked with God for a long time.

The tree has deep roots – so does the person who has spent years walking in God’s ways.

The tree has a huge, stable trunk – the wind can blow the branches, but nothing short of a tornado could budge that trunk even a little bit.  Similarly, the long-time Christ follower is a stable person, reliable, unmoved during life’s storms.

The tree has enormous branches extending in all direction – branches that provide shade from the sun and habitat for many creatures.  The person of deeply entrenched faith has influence that is like that – it reaches in every direction, and it provides shelter to many who seek it.

The tree is imperfect – scarred by time.  Stuff like the place where that kitchen-wrecking branch was torn away from it.  Show me a person who has walked long with God, and I’ll wager you’ll find that they are scarred by life and time as well – but more importantly, still standing.  And then there is that shedding and those ants – even the long-time God-follower probably has little yuckinesses about him or her, eh?  Imperfect.  But beautiful.

So many good and beautiful things in the analogy of the giant tree and the person of well-worn and much-used faith.  But I think the analogy follows for the darker side, as well.  While our giant tree is beautiful, it is also has great power of destruction, should it fall.  A few years ago, tornadoes swept through this area – I can remember driving these streets and seeing trees smashed down through homes.  This tree could do that.  In the same way, a well-beloved and highly trusted person of God has a great power of destruction, should he or she fall.  I don’t have to cite cases here – any person reading this could tell multiple stories, right?

This is a matter of great seriousness in my mind.  While I am no “giant tree” when it comes to my faith, I have now walked with God long enough to be acutely aware of others that look to me when they consider Him.  There are people who take what I write very seriously.  There are folks who watch my life and decide things about God, based on what they see. There are others who ask me to help them sort out problems, or to stand with them while they do hard things.  I am surprised, every single time this happens, and deeply honored.  I think of who I have been in my past and am once again undone, that He would bring me so far beyond all that bondage, junk and crap and into such freedom, that I would have enough even to share with others.  It is a thing I can’t take lightly; it sends me running to God and begging Him not to let me act on my own understanding, but only by hearing and following His voice.

None of this means I have to be perfect.  I can’t attain that – it ain’t in me.  It DOES mean I need to be aware that, should I decide my ways are better than His and then just run my life off the rails…I won’t be the only one hurt by that.  My falling would take others down with me.  People may well doubt God because of my dumb decisions.

I hadn’t thought of it until this moment, but I guess that’s a long story driving the reason behind Luke 12:48, which says something like “to whom much is given, much is required.”

Serious business.  Reason to keep reaching for Him with all my might.

  1. Cindy says:

    Awesomeness in this blog! So many layers! Thank you!

  2. Mindy Warren says:

    Hi Karen,
    Great advice! Do you mind if we use this blog in our church newsletter?

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