Dead or Alive?

I call this the “gnarly tree.” My girls are confused with my obsession about its eerie state of appearance, but I know that a spiritual application can be found in its isolated condition.

I have heard (not sure if it is true or false) that the gnarly tree is the remains of a majestic oak which has petrified over time, after being struck by lightning. It stands alone in an open field, naked and exposed, approximately 500 feet from a two-lane rural road. A backdrop of clustered trees frame the field on three other sides, giving the gnarly tree an even greater personality of detachment.

Winter. Spring. Summer. Fall. The gnarly tree remains unaffected by the elements. Its twisted silhouette doesn’t change color or shape;  Is it dead? If it were, I would think that the structure would have weakened and toppled to the ground. Is it alive? I see no evidence of growth, no leaf formation or fruit-bearing acorn seeds.

I have only watched the gnarly tree from afar. I haven’t had the opportunity to get up close and personal. But here are my observations:

1.) The gnarly tree is set apart for a purpose. Psalm 4:3 says, “But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him.” Imagine that the God of heaven has singled you out and is tuned into your every need and desire! God deems us worthy and knows our heart’s desire is to serve Him. It is difficult to stand apart–unbelievers will mock or ridicule our choice to follow Christ. Our confidence can be boosted by this truth and keep us looking forward, not behind us.

2.) The gnarly tree has weathered the storms. I would think that without the protective cover of foliage or closeness of other trees, the gnarly tree is even more vulnerable when the winds and rain besiege it. Nahum1:7 describes the strength we can claim in such times of turmoil: “The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.” Often, the strength we acquire is above and beyond the ordinary; we can only attribute it to the One who is completely in control!

3.) The gnarly tree is an enigma. In other words, the gnarly tree is a mystery. There are no visible clues that tell an observer how the bent, bare branches came to be. The ashen coloring reveals no charred markings, which if present, would confirm the rumors of a previous lightning strike. Yet, its present state is quite distinctive from what its original one had been. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” When we make a decision to trust Christ as our Savior, we are physically still projecting the same image, but it is the inner man that has become new. Isn’t that a mystery in itself? It’s a miraculous (spiritual) transformation!

Perhaps my fascination with the gnarly tree is a bit overrated? The next time you see a rare visual display of God’s creation, remember the symbolism of the gnarly tree. It could be a reminder of God’s power,presence and protection.

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