According to an old Rob Bell video, we live between two trees. In Genesis 2:9 there’s a tree of life, and it was referred to again in Revelation 22:2. And in between, the Bible mentions thirty-seven different varieties of tree in fifty-five separate verses (isn’t Google wonderful!). So trees have a special role in the Bible. I love the Psalm 1 tree, comparing a person who loves God’s ways being like a tree planted by water, firmly rooted and yielding fruit. And there’s the wonderful verses in Isaiah 61 about God’s favour leading to people being comforted and called “oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord”.
A few years ago I took a photo of two trees in Cumbria. They were large trees, quite mature, located in the middle of a field being grazed by sheep. I wasn’t close enough to see what they were, but I was struck by the contrast. You see, one of the trees was very much alive, but the other was completely dead. The dead tree must have started life as a seed, growing to maturity, but then some calamity struck. But, spiritually, it is the other way round for us. Psalm 51 says we were sinful (dead in our sins) from the moment of conception. But then we were made alive when Jesus was raised from the dead (Ephesians 2:5). Transformed from death to life. There are other analogies that can be drawn, I’m sure. All I know is that I would rather be the tree full of life. There’s something sad-looking and terminal about the other.
Two seagulls, adolescent, still displaying some of their early brown plumage. They were having a ball. If seagulls could smile, they would have been grinning from ear to ear.
I was standing at the top of the cliffs at Old Hartley Bay, just North of Whitley Bay. There was a lively breeze coming onshore from the North East. Steady but cold, bringing with it a damp foggy but bracing atmosphere. Below me, the sea was lapping at the small beach, waves driven by the wind, surf crashing over the rocks still visible, as they poked their weathered heads up through the spray and foam yet again, through another high tide and weather system.
But back to the juvenile gulls. They had worked out that by simply setting their wings optimally, they could use the force and direction of the breeze to propel them through a figure of eight course, that took them out to sea and then back skimming the waves before the updraught at the cliff face lifted them up and over the fence at the top. There a simple adjustment of their wings turned them along the cliff top and then back out to sea again. I stood spell bound for over five minutes until Archie decided there were no more smells to explore and it was time to move on. But the amazing thing about the gulls was that they did not need to flap their wings at all. They just seemed to be enjoying the moment and their God-designed and given aerodynamics.
In Isaiah 40 we read, “But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” The gulls certainly “soared high like eagles” and never seemed to grow weary of, or faint in, their activity. But did they find new strength by trusting in the Lord? The didn’t consciously have to – they just instinctively accepted what God had supplied for them. But for us humans, God has blessed us with a thinking mind and we have the ability to choose. So am I going to be weary and faint today, or gain new strength by trusting in the Lord? But the answer should be a “no-brainer”. Let’s choose today (and every day!) to be strengthened in the provision that God has made available to us, setting our spiritual wings to soar on the updraughts of His Spirit, trusting Him for all the strength we need. And stop flapping our metaphorical wings frantically trying to reach cliff tops in our own strength.