Traveling through the mountains of Tennessee almost eight years ago, God taught me some things while gazing at the wondrous trees we passed mile after mile. So I’m revisiting that lesson today and wanted to share it with my friends:
Headed home from Greeneville, TN, (the fall of 2004) and I’m admiring the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. Since we’re going back a different route than when we came (and I’m not driving this portion of the trip as I was a few days ago when we arrived) I have time to really look around and reflect on God’s wonders that I haven’t seen in quite a while. Although I grew up near the mountains in Pennsylvania, I am in awe this morning after living in Florida for 17 years (now 25 years)!
The trees are what have my attention right now. The flowing water and the jagged rocks are great, but the trees are teaching me something new and fresh this day. The Lord will use even the trees to speak to our hearts when we are open and hungry for more of Him!
What are the trees saying? First I just seemed to be noticing how many there are. Then I began to see the way they are growing straight up toward the sky no matter what their position is on the side or the top of the mountain. It doesn’t matter if they’re planted on a level place or a steep, rock area-they have taken root and decidedly looked toward the heavens. And it occurred to me that even the trees know Who their Creator is and they look to Him for life. Their branches and new sprouts of leaves seem to reach out, reach up in praise and adoration of the Most High God.
Now I’m noticing how close they are to each other, yet they seem to get along so well! Some are so close together, almost hugging, sharing in the joy. These trees don’t mind if one is greener, more yellow, orange or red (during autumn) or even prettier than the others. Some are taller and stronger than others. But they say ‘that’s okay’. Altogether, as a whole, one big ‘family’ of trees on this mountain created by God, they represent beauty and majesty and praise to their Maker. He can design them any way He wants. And they accept it.
Now surely I know that trees don’t have feelings! But I do know that they are alive and they are doing what they were designed to do-work together, in obedience according to God’s will, without complaint or rebellion. Does any of this sound familiar? Yes, God was showing me the parallel of us, His children, and how we need to be in the Body of Christ (the forest). Now I’m thinking of the saying ‘you can’t see the forest for the trees’. How can that relate to us as Christians? Well, if the forest represents the Body and we are the trees, then when the world looks at us, what do they see? They should be seeing one big, beautiful spectacular sight-a multi-colored array of people, with voices that carry the Word to them and hands lifted high in praise and adoration.
The world should see obedience and harmony in getting the job done. They should see acceptance of each other in the different areas of our lives at different times where God made some to be taller and stronger. He also made some to be ‘shorter’ (so to speak) in order to complete the work He has for them right where they are at that time in their lives. As we grow and ‘sizes’ change and ‘looks’ change we still need to be looking up, like the trees do, (Matthew 6:33) seeking His face, seeking His will, working to get the job done, running the race set before us, and there will be no time left over for petty arguments over doctrine and jealousies and enviousness, gossiping or strife. There won’t be time enough to let sin get in the way if we are truly working together to do and be what we were created for.
Sin is ugly, whether seen or unseen. So why should the world look at the Body of Christ and see ugliness? They shouldn’t, which is why our instructions from Him include keeping the Body clean and without blemish (sin). It has to start with each individual living and abiding in Christ, with love and obedience in our hearts. The sin can’t stay-it has to be gone. Jesus did not put up with sin, neither did Paul. Are we imitators of Christ or are we not? If so, it is our job to put it out in order to heal the Body and save the soul of the one in sin (I Corinthians 5, Titus 3).
So, the beautiful Smoky Mountains were my classroom this morning. Let’s take a lesson from the trees!
Kim L. Newsome