In the beginning, God created trees.
It wasn’t the first or only thing He created, of course, but He spoke vegetation into existence by commanding the land to produce it. And there came the trees bearing fruit with seed in them according to their kinds. God saw that it was good, and then He closed out the third day. Done.
And to this day, we can think about trees, bearing seed according to their kinds: shagbark hickory, sassafras, dogwood and redbud. Apple, pear and persimmon trees; walnut, oaks, and ash. White pine, blue spruce, buckeye and willow. Beyond the woods of Indiana, there are palms and redwoods, orange and grapefruit trees; fig, olive, jacaranda and eucalyptus trees.
It’s amazing to ponder the miracle of a tree. They begin so small: an acorn, pine cone, sweetgum ball, a whirlygig from a maple tree. From seed to sprig to a shoot with an ever-widening root system, it branches out, and a tender young tree stakes its claim in the soil beneath and the sky above, pushing toward the heavens.
While it grows and changes, it faces seasons. With seasons, comes more change: from dormant winter to sap-rising spring, when buds, burgeoning, draw light from the sun to deepen through summer. Fall comes, and trees explode in vivid color before dropping their leaves to return to quiet, solemn, exposed outlines against the gray skies of winter.
A Creator worked seasonal transformation into the bigger change of seed to tree. Change is good, He might say. Without it, there could be no seed, no future trees, no possibility for growth.Look at a tree if you can; study it, ponder it, sit under it, climb it, rub your hands over it. Then think of the tree and the change, the strength it develops as it lives through another season, another year, earning another ring deep within.
Jesus was present at Creation, His voice somehow joining with the Father and Spirit, speaking everything into existence.
What, then, was it like for Creator-Jesus to come to earth and be immediately placed in a manger, probably rough-hewn from logs cut from trees He Himself first sculpted? What was it like for Creator-Jesus to later become Carpenter Jesus?
As He grew, Jesus would have been surrounded by wood shavings and sawdust, as tables, chairs, chests and cradles were constructed from bark-covered logs stripped by His earthly father, and later, by Jesus Himself.
He would have learned what wood worked best for each piece, shaping it to fit His purpose: He may have carved designs into wooden chalices, whittled a knob for a drawer, and chiseled joints to form a solid bed that would bless some newlyweds. He would have known the earthy smell of freshly sawn wood and recognized a tree from the scent of its discarded chips and scraps flaring up in a fire warming His dinner.
Imagine Him walking the rugged landscape of the Holy Land, made Holy by His presence there, pausing to lean against a fig tree, or reaching to brush his fingertips against an olive branch, privately enjoying the familiar feel of wood, known so well to His rough hands. Jesus even sought the cool silence of trees in the darkness of Gethsemane, as He agonized over the Plan.
How did it feel, hours later, to be hauling His cross, the wood of a tree cut to destroy? The Creator, crushed under the weight of a tree. He felt it against His body, no chance or thought to run His hands over it with the pleasing realization that He had spoken it into existence. Nor would He have imagined it stripped of bark and smoothed into a chair leg or a spinning wheel. His mind was focused on other things, on a transformation He alone could understand … a transformation He alone could bring about.
As the Creator-Carpenter hung, nailed to a tree, splintered wood was the last thing He felt as He let the greatest transformation of all begin.
From that point on, true change, true transformation for each of us was possible. The Creator-Carpenter, as Christ…on a cross.
Let us think of that, as we ponder a tree.
© 2002 Ann Kroeker