Between the Trees

Fall foliage is kind of a big deal in New England; people come up here from all over to go “leaf peeping.” (Not super sure why it’s considered ‘peeping’ rather than ‘ogling.’ In Oklahoma, we would go on straightforward “foliage tours,” where the whole point was to take in as much color as the scrubby patches of oaks could afford. Now I feel a bit dirty sneaking peeks at these apparently modest and unassuming leaves. But whatever.)

I’ve always loved trees, regardless of the season. Those draped in Spanish moss down in New Orleans, towering palms kissed by an exotic sun, willows relishing the wind in their hair, fat evergreens that smell like citrus. They all feel friendly to me, like there’s sap in my veins.

In the grand tale of the Bible, I find myself somewhere between the trees, bookends of history.

Our story launches with two trees: the tree of life, its fruit ripe for the taking, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, banned by a gracious God for our good and His glory.*

You know how it goes. Our response to the forbidden tree is our downfall. God gives us a promise, but it will come at great length and great price. We leave the forest, the garden, so that we won’t screw things up even more by eating of the other tree, and are pushed out into the wild to wait for His promise to be fulfilled.

And then another tree.

One made into an ark, a vessel to save us until the promise can come true. Still we wait.

And then another tree.

One twisted into a staff, leading us out of slavery and across miracle waters into the land meant for us. Still we wait.

And then another tree.

One shaped into a tabernacle, the dwelling place of God. His glory fills the air, but the promise lingers longer. Still we wait.

And then another tree.

One carved into a feeding trough where a tired brand-new mama will pour out God into the world. This is the original Christmas tree, decorated with more glory than we can even fathom. Angels sing while the earth holds its breath. Still we wait.

And then another tree.

One with curled shavings concealing the carpenter’s floor. When He’s not forming this wood into tables or doors, He’s healing the sick, bringing the dead back to life, and speaking of the promise like it’s His own heartbeat. Still we wait.

And then another tree.

The best tree. The ugliest tree. The hanging tree.

One split into a cross, covered in the blood of the One who created it. Full of God, then completely empty—just like His tomb. The promise has finally been kept, but we can’t see its reverberations fully worked out yet. Still we wait.

And then another tree.

One that shouts our homecoming, with leaves that heal the nations and ever-changing fruit begging to be harvested all year long. We know this tree. Of course we do. It’s the one we started with, climbing its branches and singing its growth way back in the first days. It brings us life, pointing to the One who makes all things new.

Our stories matter. But don’t forget that when the darkness overwhelms or daybreak comes in all its dazzling beauty, we’re still waiting. Still between the trees.

*I always wondered why the first tree was there if death couldn’t enter the world except by eating of the second tree. Why would people who won’t die need a tree that gives life? Pastors’ wives are allowed to have questions, too, and I’ve got oodles. God is big enough to delight in my curiosity. I believe we’ll have lots of fun talks once I can ask Him face to face. Just so you don’t think I’ve got everything figured out.

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