Seeing Community in the Trees

Photo by Josh Benton

Photo by Josh Benton

The redwoods are massive trees. They tower above, meter upon meter, foot upon foot, taller than tall. They are massive. And when seen in person, they dwarf you to the point you realize your own insignificant place in the world. And then you realize you’re in a forest of them. It boggles the mind. These trees tower high up above, some centuries old, a a millennium or two old.

My mind kept echoing David’s thoughts

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them.”    Psalm 8:3-4

When I lived in northern California, I loved these trees. They were all around. Some grew on my high school campus. Some were in the backyards of people’s homes. There was a redwood forest just north of town that had a whole ropes course built into it. When walking through a redwood forest, you felt like you were on the Moon of Endor, waiting for an ewok to come out with a spear or something.

They are impressive.

This last June we visited there once again. My son had heard stories from me about redwood trees. He had read about them in books for school. He so wanted to see a real life redwood tree. And we did not disappoint.

We went hiking through the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. A beautiful place. Along the trail my son would stop and read each sign, each marker that told about redwood trees. Each sign revealed to him a new secret about these magnificent trees. He learned how new trees grow out of old fallen ones. He learned how the rings of the tree told its age, the drought years, the fires that had come through, and the years of good rain.

Another thing about the redwood trees that have struck me is that despite their height, their roots are shallow. You see their roots bubbling up from the soil, almost themselves reaching to be free from the dirt, seeking sunshine in the midst of the colossal shade. These trees, taller than buildings, aren’t rooted deep into the ground like one might think. Their roots spread outward. They spread outward and intertwine with other trees.

Photo by Josh Benton

Photo by Josh Benton

That is the thing about these trees. They are only tall and long lived because of one another. Each tree supports the other. Each tree holds the other up. They are taller than tall, the high breeze making them sway, creak, moan, yet they stand firm because they are linked with one another. And each time one falls, it allows life to come from it, giving birth to new trees. You would think that in such a shadowy cool canopy, they would compete for the sunshine, that they would fight amongst themselves in a Thunder Dome of arbor day horror. But they don’t. They link together and grow together, giving themselves for one another.

Reflecting now upon these trees, I begin to see. I saw community. We human beings, we people who, at the base of just one redwood tree, know we are poor feeble and frail, need one another. We need one another.

My mind keeps going back to the book of Acts. On the day of Pentecost, Peter, the impulsive disciple, had preached such a sermon that 3,000 people came to believe in Jesus. And then we read about what these 3,000 + people did

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

3,000 + people devoted themselves to one another. Linking together. Supporting one another. Being present with one another.

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.” Acts 2:46-47

As human beings, we need to do life together. We need community with one another. Each tree stood firm, and by the outward looks, was by itself, having it’s own space (are redwood introverts then maybe?), yet they were still connected, linked, in community.

Are you truly in community now with others? Are you truly connected? Come, enter into that community. No one is to be alone. Even the great redwood trees are not alone. If they aren’t, why should you be?

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