Photo by scotsann on Morgue File.
Have you ever climbed a tree? I must confess, I was never an avid tree-climber. Climbing trees can be rough and rugged. There are the scrapes on one’s knees and hands, the pricks in one’s palms and the possibility of getting mid-way up only to discover one is stuck!
I never had a tree house as a child. I always assumed houses should be on something solid and firm . . . such as the ground!
I was recently watching a show where a man was climbing up a tree (he was wanting to build a tree house in it) and he was checking to see if it was good and solid up its length. He got about twenty or so feet up and went to grab one branch, that was not good and solid, and went tumbling down to the ground. Fortunately, he was unhurt by the fall, a little shaken up it seems, but physically okay.
Again, climbing trees can be dangerous work.
One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s Birch Trees. I made a post about it here.
In the poem, Frost discusses young boys climbing up birch trees, the limbs bending beneath their weight and then the boys jumping off at the right moment. And as he reminds us, boys climbing on birch trees does not cause their limbs to be forever bent, ice storms do that!
Just this morning, I saw a video of a mother raccoon teaching her young cub (yes, baby raccoons are called cubs, I Googled it!) to climb a tree. It was filmed by a man in his dad’s backyard in Washington state. The video shows the maternal care of the raccoon as she patiently demonstrates to her cub how it’s done. The cub is reluctant, frightened and unsure if this is an endeavor he really wants to try. The link to the video is below:
I can imagine him saying (in raccoon speak of course!), Hey mommy dearest, how about you do the all the climbing and I’ll just be content to sit and watch!
The mother raccoon would respond with a gentle rebuke, But cubby dearest, you are a raccoon and raccoons climb trees!
Even the little cub knows that climbing trees can be a risky proposition!
Yet, he is after all a raccoon. And, being a raccoon, it is his nature to climb trees. It is high up in the tree that the mother builds the nest; and, if he wants to reach the safety and comfort of that nest, he must first climb the tree.
There are things in life that we all face as believers that are like those trees. Things that are giant, scary and overall potentially hazardous to our health. It would be easy to resign ourselves to the safety of the terra firma and let the other raccoons climb the trees.
But, trees are a part of God’s design for our lives. God intends for us to scale the heights from time to time and not merely rest secured on the bottom.
God has promised us security, but not safety . . . and there is a big difference between the two!
The pain, agony and dread are part of the journey. Climbing the tree will hurt. Its bark will be rough and uneven. It will bite into our palms and scrape against our knees. Its branches, while a help in climbing, will be course and rough and they will cut us and make us bleed. The heights will be real. The ground will seem miles away. It is that gut-wrenching feeling of standing on some height and looking down to the ground. Have you ever noticed how different the perspective is? When you are standing on the ground and looking up, say to something ten or twenty feet up, it doesn’t seem all that high. But, when you are ten or twenty feet up and looking down! Well, now the perspective is a very different one.
Sometimes the trees that God puts in our paths are to help us gain a new or better perspective. If we stay grounded too long, our senses become dulled and we grow apathetic and complacent.
There is a scene in Dead Poet’s Society (another personal favorite of mine) where Mr. Keating, the teacher (played by the late Robin Williams) has his class of male students come up to the front of the room, step up in his chair and climb up atop his desk. No, a desk is hardly as harrowing as a tall, mighty oak, but the principle is still the same.
He is challenging them to see the world from a different perspective. He is asking them to grow in their relationships and to find their place in this world. After all, the room looks quite different atop the desk.
As followers of Christ, we understand some perspectives for us are out of bounds. There are some attitudes and beliefs that we cannot endorse, because to do so would be to violate the teachings of our Lord. But, there are times when we all need a fresh perspective. There are times when we need to climb the heights and smell the air and take a good long look around.
What we often times find is that the world is a much bigger place than our little spot of earth. We can better see, with the help of the Holy Spirit, God’s bigger picture. We can see the needs and hurts that God sees and hears everyday. They help remind us of God’s global mission through the gospel of Christ. The only message that resurrects dead souls and brings grace and forgiveness to hardened sinners.
The trees of life help us to refocus. They help us to regain our strength and energy as we live on mission for Christ. They help us, in short, to see the larger forest and not just the trees.
Have you climbed any trees lately?
If not, maybe it’s time!