Let Me Be Like a Tree

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I’m in Northern Michigan as I write this. I’m so fortunate that each summer my family and I are able to call this beautiful and richly resourced corner of the world our home. When most of the country is in oftentimes suffocating heat (or this year, lots of rain back home in Chicago), we enjoy days filled with cool breezes off of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay, warm sunshine that filters through the many evergreens, and blooming cottage gardens. By night, we see a sky filled with a million stars that really do seem to twinkle and glow, after an extended evening of light (it doesn’t get dark here until after 10:00 pm) brought to an end with a magnificent sunset in which the sun seems to bounce out of view like a bright red ball over the water.

Here, at the tip of my ring finger (turn your palm towards you and you’ll have a handy map of Michigan for reference), it’s easy to breathe in God and plant myself beside his flowing spirit.

This past Sunday at church, amongst God’s natural beauty so evident in this place, Reverend Dr. Trygve Johnson, Dean of the Chapel of Hope College, shared with us his daily prayer. “God, let me be like a tree planted along the water.” He told of his childhood visits to his grandfather who lived in the Pacific Northwest. Hand in hand they would walk among the tall redwoods, listening not to each other but to the forest. It would come alive with sounds of God’s creation making human words a mere distraction. At some point, the pair came to a mammoth tree; whose height and width told of it’s long life. His grandfather, a man of few words, reached his hand up onto the trunk of the towering tree, “be like this tree son -strong and steady and grounded.”

Dr. Johnson went on to explain that the first chapter of the book of Psalms, the Bible’s prayer book, begins with this same prayer picture.

Oh, the joys of those who do not

follow the advice of the wicked,

or stand around with sinners,

or join with mockers.

But they delight in the law of the Lord,

meditating on it day and night.

They are like trees planted along the riverbank,

bearing fruit each season.

Their leaves never wither,

and they prosper in all they do.

But not the wicked!

They are like worthless chaff,

scattered by the wind.

Psalms 1:1-4

Oh, Lord, let me be like a tree. Rooted and fed by the meditations of my heart delighting in You. Bearing fruit in each season’s time – not being impatient and wanting to rush, or lackadaisical and producing little. Not withering from drought, but prospering and growing because of my connection to You, my ultimate life source.

Each day, this day, is this how I live? No, not always. But I know this prayer is good. I know it is a worthy goal because it’s what I want for my kids. I want for each of them what Paul describes for the church of Colossians in Chapter 2:7 when he says, “Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.”

If I want each of my children to have strong, deep roots producing hefty character, weighted knowledge of the Lord and grounded convictions able to withstand life’s storms, then it starts with me. It begins with my own actions. Am I more like the worthless chaff, the leftover husks, that have no bearing but only blow here and there with no direction? Am I, as the Bible says, “scattered” with my allegiances, my convictions and my morality? I don’t want to be. But sometimes I am.

In this lifetime, our children will be exposed to a multitude of world views and enticing ideas that are far from God. It will take intentional rooting to plant this generation firmly in God’s rich soil (my hunch is every generation says that about the next). Christ can certainly turn anyone’s heart and mind toward Him, regardless of how strong the pull of the world becomes. But, as a mom, I want to do my part. I want to be used for God’s glory instead of be an adversary to his work in my children’s lives. God has literally planted these seedlings, these children, close to me. And so, if I am near Christ’s ever flowing source of water, then each precious seedling will be too. If I’m distant, if I’m in a dry place, so are my children.

If you are waiting in expectation to meet your child at birth or are already carrying them in your arms (or chasing them as they now walk on their own!) will you commit to plant your own self at Christ’s living water source? Today, will you drink of God’s refreshment and delight in what He has for you instead of feeding on what the world offers?

Deuteronomy instructs parents to talk to your children about God’s commandments when you are at home, when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). This is overwhelming to me when I’m not seeped in God’s word each day myself. But, when God and I are talking throughout the day, it’s not hard to share what I’m learning with my kids. It’s not a struggle to pass on my hope when I’m being fed abundantly.

Lord, make me a tree. Feed my roots so they burrow deep down and ground me. Shine your light on my branches and leaves and let it filter down into these precious children that sit beside me. Allow the shade You ultimately provide to shelter my family and help these seedlings grow.

Lord, make me a tree.