People are Like Trees
One of my favorite stories in the New Testament is a healing story. In that story Jesus heals a blind man. If you work some with New Testament scholarship, you soon will learn that healing blind people generally is an analogy to finding faith. “Seeing” and “faith” make a good analogous pair. If I can come to “see” something, then I can be said to have “faith.” So in this healing story, the blind man comes to have “faith” in Jesus and who Jesus really is.
That’s fine, but that is not my focus for the day. I am more intrigued with a little glitch in that healing story. Jesus approaches the guy and touches his eyes. Then when the man is asked if he can see, he basically says that he can see people, but they look like trees. At that point, Jesus has to do a touch-up, so that people become people in the healed man’s eyes.
What I want to focus on in this inspirational reflection is not the healing story per se, but on the man’s response to Jesus. In effect, he says trees are like people. However, in this reflection I want to reverse the analogy and suggest that people are like trees. Let me elaborate.
One of the obvious things about the spring season is how the world comes alive. It happens every spring, and every spring I am amazed and delighted. I love the surge of new life that seems to ebb and flow every place you look. We are again in the midst of spring and that moves me again. Let’s focus on the trees.
All winter the trees stand naked of foliage. They are as good as dead. I know we call it dormancy, but it looks dead to me! It is almost as if the trees stand there, brace themselves and take it---take all that winter can blast their way. But then the seasonal warming that we know as spring breaks onto the scene. Imperceptively, the trees begin to come alive. It is always sneaky, because you cannot see it coming. You know it will happen, but when it is happening, you cannot see it until part way into the process.
And then in the staging of spring, buds begin to appear. From the bud comes some really nice flowers. Particularly, some fruit trees bear gorgeous flowers. Every spring I fall in love again with trees. I know the beautiful phase of flowers on the trees does not last long, but it is impressive every time. I know the green leaves will begin to replace the flowers and I am good with that. But I love the in-between flowering stage.
And then the green leaves do set onto the trees. This prepares the trees for the long haul through spring, a hot summer, and on into the fall season. And then obviously, the cycle is set to deliver the trees back to the dormancy of winter. The circle will come around one more time. But in the springtime, one never zooms that far ahead.
Perhaps it is that cycle I see in trees that make them such good analogies for people. Let’s take a closer look. The human life-cycle is much like the tree. The springtime of the human, as I understand it, goes from infancy through childhood. To me the baby is much like the initial seasonal surge that spring brings to the tree. Something is happening, but the results are hard to discern. So it is with an infant. A great deal is happening, but it is hard to discern.
As the infant grows on into childhood, the beautiful “flowers” appear where once there was just a bud of a baby. The flowers are pretty; the baby-turning little kid is cute. And then the “leaves” of the childhood come full force. There is amazing development, growth, and vibrancy. So much happens. So much promise comes to the scene. The tree and the child are both ready for the summer season of productivity.
Adolescence brims with potency. That bleeds on into the fullness of a maturing person. Spring/summer/fall can be a long season for the leafed tree and for the generativity of the human being. I think about my own life and realize I am like that “mature” tree in the middle of the fall season. The productivity begins to flag a bit and the greenness of mid-summer and mid-life begins to fade.
If the tree analogy holds, then I am headed for “ripeness.” Let’s use this as a time to move this analogy into a spiritual direction. We can imagine the infancy/childhood phase of spring to be that time when the spiritual seeds are sown. When we are young, we carry the seminal potential for so much good stuff later on. On into adolescence and early adulthood, the seeds sprout and grow into the spiritual person we potentially can be. As we move into full adulthood and towards the autumn of our lives, we can accumulate spiritual knowledge and experience in spiritual living that can make us stalwarts of our “forest” (our community).
Many of you are in that phase now. Do it as well as you can. And some of us are already in that autumn or late autumn phase. Like the trees we hopefully can bear the fruit of accumulated wisdom. I really hope I can become a sage of the Spirit. For when I begin to lose my leaves, I want them to be spectacularly beautiful. Then I will be at peace as I fall into God’s ground to make it richer for the new season.