I love trees, and in moments of extreme exultation, have been known to hug one! Flowering trees hold a particular charm for me, the jacarandas of my youth in Johannesburg especially, their misty purple haze converting the ground beneath them into noisy popping carpets. When I arrived in Zimbabwe as a new bride, I was unprepared for the wonder and glory of the native msasa trees in Spring. They don't bloom but their tender new leaves greet the rapidly approaching summer with a gloriously varied shimmer of the colors normally associated with autumn. My eager-to-impress-me new husband drove me out of Harare just so that I could limb the prehistoric granite hills with him and feast my soul on this beauty. I will never forget it– the memory haunts me to this day and I can still remember the smell of the African dust as the late afternoon breeze played around us.
Trees abound in scripture. Their story starts with Adam and Eve, guardians in THE garden that harbored the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And I love the way the Psalmist describes the righteous as being like trees planted next to a river, bearing fruit appropriate to the season. We move into the New Testament and the story of Jesus takes place among the trees of Palestine. Even the blind man saw “men as trees walking” until the Lord Jesus completed the miracle – trees, trees, everywhere!
But the tree that transfixes me today is THE tree, the one with splinters instead of leaves, its fruit the beaten, bruised and broken body of the Savior of the world. If you come from my generation, you will have sung “The old rugged cross” more times than you can remember. You will have knelt in the dust at the foot of that crude, man-made tree and seen the great drops of blood and water falling and turning the Palestine dust to mud. And like me, you too will have bowed your head, lost in wonder, love and worship.
Maybe you would even join me in singing, “To the old rugged cross, I will ever be true, Its shame and reproach gladly bear…”