Mr. Anderson - Head of School
All the attention on Psalm 1 this first quarter pushes my thoughts towards trees. I love trees. They are one of my first neighborhood prerequisites before choosing where to live. I lived in a treeless neighborhood once and it was terrible. To make up for it we basically moved into a forest with our next home purchase. We named the biggest trees in the neighborhood and visited them often on walks. Sometimes, when the kids were young, they would make comments like “I wonder how Big Earl is doing today?” He was an unusually huge pine. His presence always made an impact on us. We’d give him a firm pat when we walked by just to see how he was holding up.
I am troubled that my family hasn’t made it to the redwoods yet. I have fixated on that forest for almost a decade now. Lately, the Appalachian Trail hiking keeps stealing the show, but it’s a source of steady heartburn in my life that I have not experienced a giant sequoia in person. In my mind, all the redwoods are falling and I fear that by the time I make it there, the last one will fall as I drive through the desert. A portion of my fear turned to reality last summer when the headline struck my news feed that the iconic tunnel tree fell (great article about it here). He died before I could visit.
Trees are transcendent. Like rivers, oceans, and mountains, trees seem to connect us to some higher truth of God’s world more evidently than other elements of nature. That’s why they are steadily used as metaphorical images like in Psalm 1. He is like a tree planted by streams of water.
God enlightens us through his word and through nature. In this case, he is doing both at the same time. The psalmist calls our attention to a tree in order for us to contemplate a blessed life. So I challenge you all to think about trees when thinking about your life. I’ll provide one extension of the metaphor here, and leave the rest of the contemplation to you.
Trees grow slowly. I remember a time straight out of college when I was preaching through the books of Acts. As I exhorted the church to “get our act together” in order to more closely resemble the church in Acts, an older gentlemen pulled me aside one Sunday morning and gave me a gentle correction. He asked me if I was aware of the amount of time that transpired in between all the inspiring stories in Acts. He asked me why it is that there is no documentation of what happened in between those stories we have collected. His point was obvious. God brings things about in seasons and cycles. Change doesn’t happen all at once. Real life is more like that of a tree. Roots inch downward. Bark thickens over decades. Leaves turn in annual cycles. Fruit is born and flowers bud after seasons of purposeful death and dormancy.
A tree planted by a stream is a life rooted in God, poised for slow change, thickened against the elements, sprawled with branches ready to bud when God says it’s time. I will not notice any changes today, nor tomorrow, in the six trees that are in my front yard. I will walk past them and to me they will be the same. But they are preparing for change. And they will all be fuller, stronger, and more mature through time.
As we read through the Psalms this first semester, I’d encourage you to meditate on Psalm 1 often. I’d encourage you to pray Psalm 1 over your children. We are looking to see a forest of trees, planted by The Stream, displaying the grandeur of God.
God, let it be so.
* If you want to play with the tree metaphor and learn something that will blow your mind, listen to this from Radiolab.