Roughly 3,500 years ago—right about the time the Ancient Phoenicians were hitting their stride—a tiny cypress tree, no bigger than a fist, sprouted in the swamplands of Central Florida. 3,500 years later, in 2012, that very same cypress burned to the ground.
Known as “The Senator,” this majestic, 118-foot tall tree was one of the oldest organisms in the world. Over the course of its long life, it survived hurricanes, disease and logging sprees, serving as a landmark for Seminole Indians, a tourist attraction for curious Victorians, and a spiritual epicenter for pilgrims hoping to bask, literally, in the shade of history. Investigators later charged a 26-year-old woman with setting the tree on fire so that she could have some light while doing her drugs beneath it! The tree is gone now and many school children and tourists will not get to see the magnificent marvel of nature it once was, but arborist had taken part of the tree years before and created a new one in hopes that it would outlive many generations to come. I’m so glad that they did this!
We are a lot like trees and plants you know. We were once a tiny microscopic unknown seed that has grown to weather many storms, sicknesses and all the crazy things that we have done in the name of fun over a lifetime. I want to show you just how much we can learn from these mighty giants of old. How we are so very similar to these ancient kings and how we might learn the mysteries of heaven by watching how a tree or plant grows, lives and dies.
Let’s start at the beginning of a tree’s life as a seed. Seeds are made up of three components. The embryo, endosperm and the seed coat. The seed coat is the shell that protects it until the time is right and the threat of a killing frost is gone. The rains come and push the tiny seed into the soil, softening the outer shell allowing the seed to emerge to the place it will call home. When conditions are just right, and it has the right amount of light the embryo’s outer shell will split and the first signs of growth will appear, reaching deep into the soil forming roots that will sustain the growing tree. Until the roots are formed, the tiny seed will live off the endosperm for nutrients. When this is gone, the tree’s tiny roots dive deep soaking up much-needed nutrients from the ground. Ever so tiny, the tree must focus on its roots, diving deep down to lock itself into the ground so that the first spring rains that are sure to come don’t wash it loose and expose it to die in the elements. Leaves begin to form as the trunk grows daily. This is easier to see when the tree is small and can be measured.
Many seasons go by and the tiny seedling has survived scouring deer and foraging rabbits, not to mention the harsh and brutal seasons that can wreak havoc on a young sapling. Each year the tree forms new branches and a canopy of leaves, but no seed pods or fruit because it’s not come of age yet. Sound familiar? As a gardener, I love to go out to my garden daily and tend to it. Giving each section some much-needed water, fertilizer and care if I want to see the beauty that’s ahead. Sure I can just “let it grow,” but without my daily care, there will be pests that devour or diseases that destroy and weeds that will surely grow to strangle out the beauty that can be. The love that I put into my garden will be reflected in its health and display of growth and beauty for years to come. We are three components when we are formed inside the womb; body, mind, and soul. As we begin to grow in our mother’s wombs we sprout limbs and form into the humans that we are at birth. Once we are separated from our “seed coat” the womb, our growth can be easily measured. We cry for nutrients daily as a tree or plant would need rain and sunlight to grow. We begin to develop as the seasons pass, but it’s not until we hit about 13 years of age that the time has come for change. A change that has meaning, a change that could potentially bring new life. A change that can make or break forest.
Like trees and plants, we need the right conditions to grow into strong, responsible and productive adults. I can’t imagine the parent that would just “let us go” and expect us to be a healthy adult contributing productively to society without repercussions. If children aren’t encourage to grow with purpose, then they will be overcome and devoured by others. If they are not loved and nurtured, they will be lost emotionally seeking to find the love that they are missing in others who would take advantage of them. Their spirits will be weakened to the point of not wanting to live and thrive in a world that has potential. I speak from personal experience. Without the right tending and daily care, we are left to be overcome by the weeds of depression.
I once bought a piece of property in the country that had been unkempt and uncared for. It was literally just a few trees and lots of weeds so tall and thick that you could be swallowed up in them. I labored hard for a year to clear the property of the weeds to reveal some beautiful trees and a wonderful space for a garden and created many nooks for reflecting and enjoyment. Indeed, it was a labor of love, for many visitors were in awe and amazed by its beauty. How much more could our children thrive with our tending and love in their lives to reveal the beauty and possibilities that could affect their generation and generations to come? It will be hard, there will be sweat and for sure there will be tears, but it will be worth the time and effort to see them flourish as one of the strong mighty trees that we look up to.