Lessons from an Old Tree

Some sights put a perspective on life.  This Cottonwood tree at Soledad RV park provided shade and shelter while Christ walked the earth.  After a glorious life of service, all that remains is this crumbling, insect sanctuary.  Even in its decay, it finds purpose.

A long-time worker at the park told me limbs cut high off the main trunk were 2 ½ feet in diameter.   She didn’t tell me how tall the tree was before it finally succumbed to weather and insect invasion, but she showed me a picture of men standing on the remains of gigantic, limbed branches several stores above the ground.

One weather-grayed, dried log sits not far from the stump.  It quite possibly was once part of the towering tree and is now being used as a base for a work bench.  In times past, it had a lofty, swaying home that stretched with life into the sky.  Now it sits immoveable on the damp ground, a humble servant not given much thought or consideration except for its utility of service.

The tree, even in its death and dismemberment, speaks loudy: a visual reminder of the passage of time and life’s purpose.

Long after the tree grew and graced the sky, long after it was domicile to countless generations of song birds, long after deer nestled securely under its sheltering boughs, but before the tree was destroyed by time and insects, the rangers considered making a hobbit home of the trunk’s base.  But that was not to be the tree’s destiny.  Men plan, God winks.  So now these humble remains of a once proud giant shelter and house burrowing insects.

As I ponder the sight, I sense that service and purpose is not always found in the heights of metaphorical swaying treetops but also in the dirt and mud of the invisibly mundane. Intellectually I reflect that none is to be counted more valuable; none discounted or disdained if God deems it so. Yet, as I look to the sky, I admit to preferring the tree top experience over one found in decaying debris like that beneath my feet.  I realize I still have much to learn about submission.  I’m thankful His grace will be sufficient to overcome my inadequacy. I have the gift of not knowing the future, but the larger gift of knowing the one who controls it.

There were several other trees and remains of trees nearby that have or had similar diameters, but I don’t think they are or were quite as large as what the submissive tree once was.  I tried counting growth rings on a stump that was close to four feet in diameter.  It had to be centuries old, but the growth rings were too difficult to clearly decipher on the grayed, weathered stump.  The lack of distinction of its fading lines reminded me that my lifetime on this sphere is truly but a fleeting moment in time.

I find both instruction and solace in these lessons. Despite the aches and pains that accompany this graying head and increasingly wrinkled envelop, I can count on divine direction and perfect purpose.  Of course, I am weak and hope for a calling to continued comfort.  But whether it be soaring heights or invisible allotment, my prayer is to be faithful to His call, humble in His service, and until it’s time to cast off this shell for consumption by the red wrigglers burrowing below my feet, with His help to find joy in whatever purpose I am called.

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