Happy Friday! To wrap our week exploring radical togetherness, a short parable:
The pine branches creaked with the gusts of wind, the sound reverberating through the trees. It made me wonder if some might crack and twist and fall to the ground. The two onlookers seemed oblivious to the sounds of the branches creaking and cracking and bending. They were too mesmerized by the beauty of the trees.
“What beautiful trees,” one exclaimed. “Truly magnificent. The best,” said the other. They exchanged glowing praise for the pine trees and seemed very proud of themselves for having found them. It was a strange sort of self-congratulatory conversation about something for which they had no hand in growing, no part in bringing about. “How wonderful to live here with so many pines all around!” they said. “Who would want to live anywhere else,” they declared. They were so engrossed in their conversation, and mesmerized by the beauty of the pines, that they were oblivious to the coming storm that continued to bend and blow the trees.
Pine trees are indeed beautiful. Their tall, skinny trunks giving way to such flexible, prickly branches full of wispy, soft needles, green all year round. And these were as beautiful as any I’d seen. But I watched in quiet desperation from about fifty yards away, the pine tree farm fully in my view. Rows and rows of carefully planted pines.
The onlookers seemed not to understand the destiny of these particular trees. They were being grown for the express purpose of being harvested to feed the demand of hungry consumers. They would all be cut down in just days. They thought the trees were there for them. For their enjoyment and to please them with their beauty. But this was a pine farm, not a forest.
In a forest, diversity is its strength and beauty. Pines, however beautiful, are soft. They may well fall in a strong wind. But in a forest, in a storm, the oaks will remain. The redwoods. And even if a pine falls, it is naturally and beautifully repurposed as a habitat, or food for some tiny creature, or simply to make room for other nearby trees. In a forest, when one tree falls the beauty remains. The purpose unchanged. Life continues and feeds on the breathe of the Creator. Even from the complete devastation of a fire, when all seems lost, in a forest, new life suddenly springs forth.
Pines are beautiful. Of this there is little dispute. And pine farms are useful. But pine farms are not forests.
Let us be ever mindful of the moments we stand before our own “pine farms” of culture or politics or preference. We may think it’s beautiful on its own. But we should remember that we are, as humans, inhabitants of a beautiful “forest” of great diversity. Created by the same God. That diversity is our strength, if we let it be. We’re not intended to inhabit bland pine farms destined simply to be cut down and used. No, we flourish most in a forest full of every sort of beautiful thing God has made.
Grace and Peace,