Maybe you’re going to call me a “tree hugger” for saying this, but the truth is, I love trees. Maybe part of it is because I love the outdoors but there’s more. Much more. When I was a kid, probably about 9 years old, I remember climbing a huge tree at the top of a steep concrete embankment in my grandmother’s back yard in downtown Atlanta. (Yes, there were once trees in the city). I loved climbing trees. I still do for that matter. With each branch higher the view changes and becomes more dramatic. And the challenge of finding just the right branch to pull yourself upward is pure adventure. Climbing this particular tree was epic. It stood at the top of a huge concrete hill. When you’re 9 it looks like Mt. Everest. Because this enormous tree was at the top of a huge hill, once you began to climb high you felt like you were way, way up in the sky riding in the clouds. I loved it.
One day, my 5 year old sister, Stephanie, followed me to the tree. I started to climb like I normally did but once I got a good bit of the way up I discovered that she was beginning to try and climb this huge tree too! I warned her not to continue the dangerous journey upward because if you fell out of this tree, you didn’t fall just to the ground where it was planted but you fell another 25-30 feet down the steep concrete hill. But it was too late. She began to scream. I quickly began to climb down to rescue her only to discover a bit of a dilemma. Stephanie had somehow climbed up just enough to get a grip on the main branch that I had to step on to ease my way down to the narrow and sharply sloped ground. The exit from this tree was a one way street. If you weren’t careful in coming down to the ground you’d lose your footing and tumble painfully down the hill. I was almost to her and could see her feet were dangling in panic. If she let go a painful tumble down the hill would follow. If I could have simply climbed down the tree I could have easily stood at the trunk, reached out my arms, and caught her as she let go. But she was blocking my way down! If I stepped on the branch needed to get down I would crush her fingers and she was sure to let go.
Meanwhile, she’s screaming at the top of her lungs that she can’t hold on much longer. There was only one thing left to do. Jump. But to do that, you had to jump outward. And to jump outward meant landing on the steep concrete hill and then enduring the tumble downward. Time was running out. Either I would painfully make the exodus from the tree or she would. I swallowed real hard, mustered up every ounce of courage that was left and took the leap. Thud! I hit the slope hard and then tumbled the rest of the way down like a ping pong ball. Once I regained my composure I quickly realized that my heroic rescue was not complete. If I didn’t get myself to the top of this mountain quickly she would soon be joining me with bruises at the bottom. I quickly and painfully began the ascent up my Everest climb that only seconds before had taken me downward much quicker than I was now making it back up.
Cue the epic hero music and start the slow motion because in a nick of time, when all hope was lost, I valiantly reached the impossible summit, stepped toward the the trunk, reached out my arms, and waited for my little sister to fall into the arms of her new hero, only to discover….she wouldn’t let go. What! “I can’t let go!” she cried. “What if you don’t catch me!” You mean I’d nearly jumped to my death from the clouds and now she wasn’t going to let go! Some storybook ending. Scratch the music. Take my name off the trophy. It was back to reality and here I am standing at the trunk of a tree like an awkward firefighter who’s dressed in full gear but hasn’t seen a fire in weeks. And finally, the little kitten, I mean my little sister, after minutes of reassuring her I was strong enough to catch her, slouched down into my grasp.
I’ve discovered lately that there’s something even more adventurous about trees that may actually frame our entire Story. I invite you to journey with me over the next several blog entries as I blog on “Life Between the Trees.” You’ll also notice that this is what I’ve decided to call my entire blog. I think you’ll understand why as we get into the journey.
Let’s take a few steps together. As we follow Jesus, it’s important to understand the framing story. What’s a framing story? Think of it like a frame around a picture. It surrounds and even shapes the picture and provides you with the perspective in which to view it. So the framing story of the Bible is what surrounds it from beginning to future (with God’s Story there’s really no end). Without the frame it can be difficult to see the picture of how God is shaping our lives within His epic Story. And it’s then that we often times find ourselves wandering aimlessly to find our purpose, our place, our role, and our destiny.
So what is the framing story? Did you know that the entire Bible, God’s Story from beginning to future, is framed by trees? Not just any trees. Two very, very specific trees. You’ve no doubt heard about the first one. In the beginning…there is a “tree of life” (Gen. 2:9) in the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve are allowed to eat from. But the second one? In the last chapter of the Bible, John describes his vision of a restored “tree of life” (Rev. 22:15).
What does this have to do with following Jesus? Everything. But we have to dig a little bit to unearth what I believe is one of the greatest treasures in the Bible – life between the trees. Stay tuned.
(Part 2 – Coming soon!)