A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying God. It “consents,” so to speak, to God’s creative love. It is expressing an idea which is in God and which is not distinct from the essence of God, and therefore a tree imitates God by being a tree–Thomas Merton
I have always loved trees. I grew up in New England where there were lots of them. I never bothered myself to learn the difference between them. I was much more impressed at their size, stature, and different colors. I especially liked the climbing kind. A close second were the ones whose bark could be used as paper to write notes to people.
I now live in a place that is rather sparse in the tree department. The most plentiful tree, the mesquite, is actually a weed that passes as a tree. But even considering the smaller number and smaller stature of the trees here, I still like looking at them. I have always been mesmerized by trees.
(In fact, the first poem I remember memorizing is Trees by Joyce Kilmer.)
There is something majestic, something powerful, about trees. I don’t know that I can fully explain it, but much like Merton says–trees are awesome just because they are.
It was a struggle to just be. I wanted to please everybody all the time. I wanted to avoid conflict at all costs. I wanted everyone to like me. If one person wanted me to stand and other wanted me to sit, I tried to figure out how to do both at the same time. If people were disappointed in me, then what was the purpose of my existence?
If I could not be the best husband, father, son, brother, preacher, friend that everyone ever had, then why was I even trying?
I was often motivated by whatever book I had read last or was really popular at the time. If an author said I had to be purpose-driven, then I was purpose-driven. If someone wrote that I need to know all about her needs for appreciation then I would do that. If a church growth person said churches grow when X, Y, and Z are done then we tried to implement X, Y, and Z (often regardless of context).
I was so mired in insecurity and I could not even recognize it. I thought the fact that I was working so hard meant that everything was fine; I just needed to work a little bit harder to bring about better results.
But what if I could be more like a tree? Trees don’t work very hard to be trees. They don’t try to impress anybody. They don’t draw attention to themselves. They don’t try to convince anyone that they are the best tree ever.
Trees just are. And the fact they exist is all that is necessary to acknowledge God.
So what if I could just be? What it would it be like if I could just live my life from day to day doing the best in any given situation? What if, instead of trying to be the best ever at everything, I just tried to do the best I could each day?
What if I could be like a tree? What if my only purpose in life is to be the best person I can be?
Several years ago, that question led me to try sobriety. And for that I am grateful.
But let me be honest: even without the alcohol, I still struggle with the insecurity. I still struggle with the temptation to compare myself to others. I still struggle with wanting to be the best at everything and always wanting to please everybody.
And I come back to the trees. They are majestic and lovely simply because they are trees. They are not trying to impress me (though they do). They are not trying to please me (though they do). They are not trying to outdo the other trees around them. They just are.
May we all be trees today.