The Half-Scorched Tree

I love trees. They speak to me metaphorically, providing significant analogies and life lessons about growth and beauty and provision and purpose. I can sit for an hour pondering my life (a form of meditation) in the vicinity of trees, and I’ll almost always walk away with new insights.

I’m also drawn to Bible verses that refer to trees and plants as a symbol for a person’s healthiness and vitality, or lack thereof. Psalm 1:3 is a prime example of this. Referring to those who meditate on God’s word, it says, “That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not whither. Whatever they do prospers” (New International Version, 2011).

A drawing of my Psalm 1 tree

Once when I was thinking about this verse in the context of my life, I asked God “what kind of tree am I?” And a cartoon-like image appeared in my mind. It was a small deciduous tree, with lots of roots reaching into a nearby stream. Underground rocks prevented some of the roots from sinking deeper. There was no fruit, but as it wasn’t a fruit tree that didn’t seem to be a problem. It did have a full head of leaves, most of which were healthy shades of green, but one section looked somewhat scorched. In regard to Psalm 1, some of my leaves were definitely withered but some were not.

A week later, I ran across a similar sight in real life on a mountain that had just started recovering from a forest fire. Although this real life tree was an evergreen, I was struck by the similarity to my Psalm 1 tree with its two-sidedness. One side of the evergreen had been scorched, but the rest was still green and thriving. I thought it was interesting that both could be present in the same tree: an ugly barrenness coupled with a beautiful vitality. It seemed to perfectly illustrate the complexity of my entire personhood at the time.

The illustration helped me to see myself and my life more clearly. And in subsequent years other trees (in scripture and in the world) would do the same thing. They opened up my eyes to how I was doing and whether I was growing as a person and thriving holistically (including helping others to thrive). Then it was up to me to address the places where I wasn’t and to ask for help.

If you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to remain “static” (always staying the same), pay attention to the ways God (or perhaps your own internal voice) may be trying to communicate with you about your life. It might be through regular objects around you, a verse from a holy text, or a certain symbol or metaphor that you are drawn to. I hope that whatever it is, it would bring about personal growth, internal beauty, provision for those around you, and a renewed sense of purpose in the world.