Have you ever noticed how many times in God's Word, He compares human beings to plants? Psa 128:3 Thy wife [shall be] as a fruitful vine by the sides of thine house: thy children like olive plants round about thy table.
Jhn 15:5 I am the vine, ye [are] the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Mat 3:10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Not to mention passages like "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not turn from it." - which I have come to understand recently also has tree/plant connotations - training in the sense of training a young tree and pruning it as needed!
Last weekend, our family devotion centered on the idea of trees, comparing deciduous trees (those that lose their leaves each year) to Christians whose faith seems to wax and wane, and conifers (evergreens) to Christians whose faith is constant. It got me to thinking all over again about the many tree metaphors the Lord has shown me over the years.
The author of the devotion urged the readers to be conifer Christians, always green and growing. But is this a realistic expectation? It seems to me the normal Christian life IS a life of cycles and seasons, more like the deciduous tree.
Like the trees, we are called to go through seasons of emptiness at times. God calls us to let go of certain things, idols or pet sins. He calls us to drop these things, as the trees are called to drop their leaves.
Did you ever notice that there are some trees that seem to drop their leaves quickly and easily? There isn't much color change to these trees. It just starts to be autumn and they know it's time to let go. Other trees hang onto those leaves for dear life. The maples around here are some of the last trees to drop their leaves, and they are also the reddest.
In my morbidly poetic teenage years :) I imagined that red color to be the blood of the trees fighting against the coming winter. But I realize now that winter is not the demonic, terrible thing that I'd imagined. It is a season, created by God, a necessary part of life, through which the only true growth can happen. So we have a choice; we can obey God's calling as He makes it clear to us, and let go of the sins and idols of our lives quietly and quickly, or we can fight against God's plan for our lives, hang on, and suffer the much deeper pain that comes from that choice.
In the stillness of the winter, after the leaves have been dropped, God's moonlit snow and ice transforms the barren trees into creatures of true beauty. Beauty that comes from God, not from ourselves.
The winter is often still a difficult season to be in. Some winters are harder than others, but God is there with us through all of them. Just as when a tree has been cut down, you can see by the size and shape of the rings which years have been colder winters or dry years, so God promises that He sees every tear and has written them all down in His book. The coldness of yet another miscarriage, the dryness of a move to a new home where you don't know anyone yet - God sees them all and allows them, in the hopes that we will snuggle in closer to him and allow His life to begin to flow through us.
As His life flows through our veins like the sap beginning to flow through the trees, our growth will begin to show on the outside and a new greeness will come forth with the excitement of a spring breeze, showing God's handiwork to all around.
The spring is such a beautiful season to be in! Everything sings with a joy that can hardly be surpassed! The love of God for us and our love for Him can be almost tangible. God's lessons of the winter have begun to show in our growth.
As spring moves into summer, it is easy to feel this green fullness will last forever. The warm rains and sunshiny days of God's Word and fellowship with other believers begin to fill out the fruit that has begun to grow.
And then, the autumn comes again. First the fruit ripens, which can be small and sickly or large and juicy sweet, depending on how much good or bad has gone into the tree/Christian throughout the summer. It's probably no coincidence that it is in the same season that the fruit comes to ripeness and then the leaves fall again. Just as in the parable of the wheat and the tares, there have been sins and wrong thinking mixed in with truth and faith. After all, we're human. So after the fruit has ripened and been harvested, the wrong that must be weeded out is pointed out by the Lord yet again and the leaves of sin must fall. Most plants are pruned in the fall too. And God will prune away all of the dead wood and selfishness, to help us grow so as to produce the best possible fruit for our type of tree.
That's one of the other neat things about trees. Just as there are many different types of fruits, but none better than the others, so God has made us all to bear different types of fruit. I may bring forth apples while another brings forth pears and another olives. The fruit we bring forth is determined by God to compliment the variety within the body of Christ. I can't wish to be an olive tree if He made me to be an apple tree, but through His pruning and watering through all the seasons of my life, I can be the very best apple tree I can be.
So, can Christians be conifers? I don't think so. I think that the evergreen is the perfect symbol for God, the never changing, always loving, always just, eternal Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at least on this earth, I think Christians have to be content to be deciduous trees. The letting go of autumn and the starkness of winter may be difficult to bear at times, but as deciduous trees we can bring forth the most wonderful fruit!