Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Purpose of Trees

God did some spectacular setting up in the Garden of Eden. Somewhere in the creation process he made a garden, especially for Adam. In it he put some trees. Of course we know about the forbidden tree in the middle of the garden, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Less well known is the Tree of Life, also in the middle of the garden. These were among all the trees that God put there.

But notice why God made these trees: "And the LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground--trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food" (Genesis 2:9).

Trees have a purpose. Trees are pleasing to the eye. I love to see the green leaves of an oak tree against a deep blue sky, leaves rustling in the breeze on a summer day. In the fall this same stand of trees turns golden, orange, and red, giving depth to the woods that changes with the hourly angle of the sun. When these trees lose their leaves, their lines show the simplicity and complexity of their skeletons. These lines gain depth again when snow marks them so carefully and individually.

Yes, trees are pleasing to the eye.

Trees are also good for food. We harvest their fruit and enjoy the sweetness of peaches and apples. Other trees are also useful. We can use their leaves for compost, we can cut the trees and mill them for lumber. We can hang swings from their branches.

Trees are beautiful, and trees are useful. Notice that beauty comes before utility in Genesis. We like to skip the beauty, and go straight to the utility. After all, what use is beauty?

Beauty is all around us. But we need to recognize it, encounter it, and let it transform us. God made this world both functional and beautiful. Among all God's creatures, only we are able to recognize this beauty. We have the capacity to engage with beauty, but so often we just ignore it.

Pondering, considering, absorbing, basking in, rejoicing in, resting in--this is how we encounter beauty. And this encounter transforms our souls.

Do we have time for that? When no one has time for beauty, we erode away into nothing but production. And there is so much more to life than production.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Anxiety: My Worry Box

I have found it. And I have opened it. It was scary. But that has changed everything.

You see, I have this imaginary box. In it I keep all manner of scary things, things that promise me harm. It throbs with foreboding. It rumbles. It keeps calling out to me with veiled threats.

So what is in this box? In general terms, this box contains things that will harm me unless I do something. Maybe I need to save money, fix something, do maintenance, have a difficult conversation, get disciplined, get specific direction from God, read a book, follow up with someone, plan something.

This box holds all those things that steal my joy. I know they are in there, but I dare not open the box. I could never cope with the crushing weight of so many problems and situations crying out for action. I keep the lid on the box, knowing that's the only way I can be safe. I preserve myself by ignoring the box, hoping it will just go away. Or at least be quiet for a while.

It's like the monster under the bed. Its existence haunts me. It rules my soul. Sounds from within it get my attention. It reminds me that I certainly must be scared. Now. I dare not let my guard down. I could not handle the catastrophe that would ensue. I would surely die, or be broke, or friendless, unemployed, miserable, a failure, humiliated, worthless.

Even when I deal with one of the items, I merely crack the box open enough to pull it out, refusing to look at the countless other burdens preying on my mind.

But now, with some considerable courage, I have dared to recognize this box for what it is. It is a huge deception, a bluff. When I do look in the box to see all those menacing problems, I realize that there is very little substance there. I look at the problems one by one and see that they are mostly empty. At worst they are complicated, but never unmanageable. Almost always they are no actual threat to me. When a truly unmanageable problem arises, I can trust that God is already handling it.

"He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord." Psalm 112:7.

Now I can laugh at the box. I can experience real joy. I can face those things that threatened me. I can stop putting off the tasks that I dread. They will not crush me.

What a relief!

What's in your box?