Awed by the Early Spring
March 8, 2019
As I’ve been driving around Charlotte this week, I’ve loved seeing the flowering trees in bloom, but have been more struck by the leafless oaks and beeches and other deciduous trees which are not even budding yet. I see the pattern of branch and limb support, I see all the different sizes of the limbs which hold the leaves when they do come out. I feel like I am seeing the first step in the design that God made when He created trees, and especially each species. First, there was the underlying template and then He added in the buds and then the leaves, nuts, and whatever else was planned for a species.
Another part of the template for a tree that is not visible even now– the fluids within the trunk and the limbs, the ways of communicating with other trees in order to fend off insect infestations and other problems. Read the incredible book, “The Secret Life of Trees,” if you’re interested in all the details of their creation and how natural forests behave in community.
I just looked up how many species of trees there are in the world: 60,065!!!!! Wow!!
Is it possible to see our lives from the template out, too? The trunk and its roots, the large limbs and the small shoots, too. The roots might contain our DNA; the trunk would embody all the talents and gifts we have. Branches might form when some suffering took place which would then express how we dealt with the stress. Another limb forms when we get married and have children or we get a new job that takes us off on a different trajectory or we move to a new state. Each large branch might represent each major move in our lives. And then, the smaller limbs and branches represent the details of all that happened.
It is really hard for me to imagine the scope of creation or the mind of God who conceived of it! Scientists estimate that there are 8.7 million species of plants and animals(1-2 million of them are animals) on Earth. God remains a mystery to me, but I can see some things in His creation. First, He’s very detail oriented—all those 6-7 million species of plants form an interdependent system with the animals in which they each support the life of the others. If we just take our species, human beings, we each have an average of 37.2 trillion cells, each group of which, say in an organ, has a special function. So God really cares about getting the details of a species and of the entire interdependent eco-system right.
Secondly, God cares about beauty. The patterns of these bare trees are beautiful, as are the blossoms on the flowering trees, the budding leaves on some trees which come out red and then turn green as they mature. As you can see, I am mostly talking about trees, but that beauty is evident in all of creation from rocks to trees to clouds to the sky and the hills and mountains just to cite a few examples.
Thirdly, God created an interdependent system that sustains all life on this planet. The plants provide food for the animals. Larger animals feed on smaller ones; smaller animals feed on insects and small critters. The bi-products of the animals and their dead bodies help feed the plants. The sun and rain help the plants and animal grow and provide the much-needed moisture for every species. Oxygen is produced by the plants through photosynthesis and used by the animals. I could go on and on, but maybe you get the point from what I’ve written.
Our God is an awesome God, as the saying goes. It is easy to see His footprint in the natural world, in the detail, in the beauty and in the interdependent system that He created. What is not quite so evident is His actions in the human arena as well. He showers blessings and grace on us, all of us humans, every day, but it largely goes unnoticed. The good that happens to us we think that we create for ourselves or, at the very least, that we deserve it. We don’t realize the effect that we have on other people for good or ill. We live in this human community in which we were all made in God’s image and every interaction among us is important, could be life-affirming to the other person, if we would join into God’s plan. I know, I know—it’s complicated, we don’t get along, but the potential is always there.
The greatest gift we human beings get is to live on this incredible planet whose beauty is unparalleled. We get to live a lifetime with like souls, in a sustaining climate, with the potential to be really awakened and fulfilled. Every day is a new opportunity for us to learn and grow. Every day we can be close to someone(s), family or friends who travel along life’s pathways together with us.
And God has given us free will; it’s our choice how we respond to the challenges and suffering and grace we encounter. Like every plant and animal on this planet, we are given the chance to grow and change and mature every day until we die. Isn’t it an incredible life we enjoy here on Earth?