Men, Like Trees Walking

“I THINK that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree. A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed against the sweet earth’s flowing breast; a tree that looks at God all day, and lifts her leafy arms to pray; a tree that may in summer wear a nest of robins in her hair; upon whose bosom snow has lain; who intimately lives with rain. Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree.” I remember this Joyce Kilmer poem hanging as a plaque on the wall of our living room when I was growing up. I have always been fascinated by trees; awed by their strength and beauty, and the way they “lift their leafy arms to pray.” I find it interesting that Mark 8 records Jesus’ only two-stage miracle when he first touched the blind man’s eyes and he saw “men as trees walking.” There was a powerful storm that passed through Northwestern Illinois this past Sunday, taking down power lines and inflicting severe damage on thousands of homes. This “micro-burst,” which didn’t seem too micro to me, snapped trees like toothpicks and made our area of West Chicago look like Berlin during WW2. We had branches that were flung like spears with such force that three of them impaled our roof and one of them pierced our bedroom wall. As I walked around our neighborhood and looked at the downed trees, I categorized them: shallow, hollow, and inflexible. There were the trees (mostly evergreens) that simply tipped over, pulling the roots clogged with soil right out of the ground. There were also the trees that were rotten and punkie, and the wind providing sufficient force found their vulnerability.  Finally, there were those trees (mostly the biggest ones), which we not flexible enough to bend in the wind and simply snapped in two. “Men like trees, walking.” What kind of tree am I? Am I shallow-rooted; able to be tipped by the whirlwinds of temptation? Is there a rottenness in me; a growing deadness that no one can see because I have been feeding my soul with the junk food of the world and not with the Bread of Heaven? Is there an inflexibility in me that takes a stand on things that do not ultimately matter; a rigidity, which measures other by my straightness and judges others for their bent-ness? If I am to be snapped in half, let it be because I stood straight for truth against the gale-force wind of a culture that is flinging itself away from God. It is true “only God can make a tree,” but I think it is equally true that wisdom can be gained from them by fools like me.

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