Updated: Nov 19, 2021
The Franciscans say nature was the first Bible. Romans 1:20 says, "For [God's] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made." If we pay attention, God speaks to us through creation.
The photos on this post are of a giant willow oak tree in our backyard. I am told by neighbors who have lived in this neighborhood since the homes were built in the late 1960s that the original owners of our house planted it soon after they moved in (1966). That makes this tree around 50 years old. The trunk has a diameter of 47". We know from high school biology class that the root system of an oak tree below ground is roughly equal to what you see on the canopy above ground. So this tree has a massive root system. Notice how the canopy towers over our house.
We have gleaned all kinds of spiritual lessons from this tree. Here are a few:
The root system of this tree goes deep and wide. This is a picture of the life we want to build. Deep connections in the community and deep friendships. We want to deepen roots in our neighborhood.
There are several smaller, yet still large, trees around this one such as maples and poplars, and when the wind blows strongly, they sway. This willow oak tree, however, does not move an inch except for the rustling of the leaves and twigs at the periphery. The trunk and major limbs stand tall and unwavering. We remember the firm foundation of our faith. While the strong winds of life do rustle us, we stand firm in the knowledge of Christ in us.
While the tree is still growing and producing new limbs and leaves every year, it also discards old limbs throughout the season. This is a picture of the spiritual life. You must continue to grow and learn new things about your faith. But you must also shed old beliefs that no longer produce life and love, all the while remaining fully rooted in Christ in you.
Scores of animals and other plants make their home in this tree. We know it provides shelter and habitat for birds, squirrels, bats, frogs, and insects. They all depend on it for survival. The bark on the trunk is pocked from woodpeckers hammering on it over the years. Lichen lives in a symbiotic relationship on the bark. We are reminded of the interconnectedness of all living things, especially our spiritual interconnectedness. When one part of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. Likewise, when one part is strengthened, we are all strengthened.
The canopy provides shelter and shade to our backyard. Children play under it. Grown-ups sit under it in the cool of the evening. We are reminded of the outstretched arms of the Father welcoming us into loving communion in the Trinity.
Today, open your heart and eyes and ask God to show you something of himself in nature. You may be surprised what you learn. Blessings to you on the journey.