Stepping out of our van, the very first thing I noticed was birds singing. We didn’t know it yet, but they were welcoming us to our soon-to-be home. The joyous, feathered choir had made its home in a huge Bradford Pear tree in the front yard–a tree that snowed white blossoms in the springtime and showered us with cool, purple shade in the hot summer months. But now it’s gone, claimed by a giant gust of wind that screamed down our street like a wild teenager on a joyride. Crash… the tree was split in two.
An expert told us the Bradford wasn’t a good candidate for saving. Heartbroken, I momentarily imagined myself picketing our own tree-removal site with a “SAVE THE TREE!” sign, not going quite so far as to actually chain myself to the tree. The Holy Spirit seemed to nudge me out of my daydream (just in time, because my rally was gaining support and a chorus of Kookburra was rising up). I got that cool, tingly Spirit feeling as the arborist continued to speak. What he said went a little something like this: “You see these trees that grow so fast are prone to splitting. They grow up in these tight, little v-shapes, rather than growing out. Then all these little sucker branches come and fill up the space in between. Unless you heavily prune these guys, you end up with one top-heavy tree, packed tight with leaves. When a violent wind comes along, it can’t get through the wall of leaves, so the tree loses the battle.”
Oh how I loves me a spiritual metaphor. Picture this… A person, arms raised in touch-down position, reaching vertically, yet inward… like the Tower of Babel. Maybe someone who kept to herself and was afraid reach out, or someone stuck in the bondage of pride or greed, who cared mostly about himself. Maybe two friends who never open themselves up to transparency and real intimacy. Or a group of people who stand side-by-side, but let the business of life grow up like little suckers and never quite experience true community. Whether tree, person, or house… divided against itself, it cannot stand.
But then I saw another picture… A person with arms outstretched. Someone reaching out to others. Someone who was not self-focused, but had eyes on Jesus and love for their neighbor. Friends who got real with each other and brought their troubles into the light. A group a people who lived life together, branching out, growing more vibrant and stronger day by day, deeply rooted in Christ. People like this would stand strong when sinister winds blew. People like this would have room to breathe and dance and sway as the Holy Spirit flowed among them.
People like this.
Our tree was roughly 20-years old. And it lived a good life by Bradford Pear standards. But if you look at some of the ancient trees in olive groves that are thought to be thousands of years old, they branch out. They receive and they give. May we be like olive trees in a grove, continuing to not only grow in grace, but grow together in grace. I can almost hear the birds singing, welcoming us home.