Looking at trees in the winter mesmerizes me as much as watching the ocean push and pull sand with the tides or following the embers of a campfire as they drift into the heavens. After dropping their leaves, trees in the winter show their truth as their branches reach into the white skies of winter.
Joyce Kilmer wrote, “I think that I shall never see a poem lovely as a tree.” I can’t help but wonder when people read those lines if they think about the beautifully colored leaves of green the spring followed by crimson and gold in the fall. I concede that trees are beautiful throughout the summer and fall, and lovely as they bear buds in the spring.
But in winter we see the true form of the trees. We see the broken branch from a girl who may have climbed onto a branch just shy of being able to support her. We see the scars of woodpeckers searching for meals. We see the twisted branches crossing one another, dancing in the wind. Trees show in winter their truth, the essence of who they are and how they’ve grown.
Is it any wonder that our first sustenance came from tree?
Then God said, “I now give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the entire earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. ~ Genesis 1:29
The trees, including the Tree of Life, happily sustained Adam and Eve in the garden, until they ate the fruit from the only tree that was forbidden and committed the first sin. How they looked at the world, and how they looked at each other, changed in that moment.
What do we see when we look at each other? Our first instinct is to look on the surface at his hair, at his clothes, at the things that surround him. We combine what we see with how she acts and what she says to form an opinion of what type of person she is. By doing this, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. When trying to understand each other, we need to strip away the surface and look at our hearts. Within a soul is where you will see the scars and scrapes, and tears and breaks who has made that person the beautiful soul she is today.
However, we tend to not show people our true selves, our tattered souls. We hide behind our outer shells and fancy window dressing, and hope that no one notices the scars and dings that our lives has inflicted upon us over the years. We believe that if our outside looks good, no one will look too deeply into our flaws and failings and see us for who we are.
But by living in that life, we are not being true to ourselves. We are not living our Godly lives. Almost from the beginning, we have tried to hide from God and each other when we have done wrong. Adam and Even hid from God after eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Cain tried to hide from God what he had done after he killed Abel. Jonah tried to hide from God after given a task to do. All of these ended badly. God knows who we are, because he formed us. In Psalm 139, we are told that God knows us completely.
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. … My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. ~ excerpt from Psalm 139:13-16
He knows the battles we have fought and where our journey has taken us in our lives. If God loves and accepts us from the depths of our soul, shouldn’t we be honest with each other and share that soul with others? Shouldn’t we do our best to seek to discover other people’s true souls that we may learn to love each other better?
With each encounter, we should seek to understand one another’s souls. We must look past the surface beauty to search the truth of what is shown on the outside. Only then, can we learn from each other and love each other without reservation.
We all have our flaws, and no tree is perfect. But God has formed each of our souls in His own image, which makes us wonderful and beautifully made. As we head into the new year, my hope is that we treat each other as the Holy souls God made us. For He is wise beyond measure, and He has given us each other to help us grow in wisdom and understanding.
This winter as you gaze outside your window at the seemly barren and lifeless trees, remember that though they may be twisted and broken, they still are beautiful. And so are you.