Monday, August 25, 2014

Supporting the Saplings

The Park Commission is trying to grow trees at Natirar. When you walk along the path, you see these saplings with fences around them. I suppose the fence is to protect them from predators, like deer, while they grow.

I was there the other night and noticed that there are several of these saplings at various stages of growth. 

When the trees are first planted as young saplings, they're tethered to sticks or poles. This helps them stay upright. As they grow and become taller in stature and stronger in their base, I suppose the supports are removed (based on what I saw). If you look at the pictures, you'll also notice that the fencing becomes narrower, since it's mostly protecting the trunk. 

Of course, I thought of how God does this with us, his children. 

The Newbie
When we first come to Him as young saplings in our new faith, we're a little shaky. Our foundation, our base, our trunk, if you will, is not strong enough to support us. In the beginning, we're in the greatest danger of being attacked by predators, and the wall of protection needs to be wide. We need the most care then. It's important for us to be tethered to other people who are stronger in their faith, who can support us and keep us on the right path--growing straight and tall; those whose faith is stronger, those who can teach us. it's not so much the leafy branches that are in danger; rather, it's those nibbles out of our tiny trunks that will, over time damage us and cause us to wither, fade and die, if left unprotected.

It's Getting Crowded in Here!
As we grow in our faith, we grow in strength, grace, and maturity. Perhaps at this point, we've discovered some of our spiritual gifts. We're growing in spiritual maturity, but the key word here is growing. We haven't grown up yet; we're still growing. We're like spiritual teenagers.

 It's those middle years that can be dangerous. While we're growing in maturity, we're also growing in security and confidence. Sometimes, we get too confident, thinking that we don't need those walls. We're secure in who we are in Christ. In fact, the walls seem confining. We feel crowded with all those other well-meaning Christians trying to come alongside us now. We don't need their help anymore. Why do they keep giving us advice when we didn't ask for it? We just need to spread our wings and fly. Be free. These are the years that we often feel like if God doesn't move now, then we might just have to do something about it! Hey, I have a calling and I need to use it-now! Those were the years in my life that I discovered the gifts and talents God gave me and I wanted so badly to use them that I ended up knocking doors down that weren't opened to me. And because of my impatience and my unwillingness to wait and heed the voice of God, who ultimately knows what's best for me, I ended up embarrassed, hurt and angry. And then I withdrew. It was too crowded.

The Wisdom of Middle Age

Notice the sturdier tree. It's more than a sapling now, but it's still not fully grown. In fact, trees never stop growing, do they? They mature, but they always grow. Their foundation, or trunk grows wider (like my waist) and stronger (unlike my waist) over the years. 

The supports are gone because the Arborist knows that the tree is now able to stand on its own. It's a tree in the Prime of Life now. According to the Arbor Day Foundation's Stages of Tree Life, a tree in this stage of life will "take care of itself with little or no outside help." That is not to say that God does not still take care of us at this stage; rather, we don't need the guidance of other, more mature believers to come alongside us for our growth like we once did. We've walked a long walk and now it's time for us to become the wiser ones, the ones who mentor the younger saplings, the ones in the middle years who are like young colts at the gate...we're the ones who can smile and say, "I understand how you feel, but take your time."

The height of the fence is the same---it's the same fence, most likely. The width may even be the same. Because the danger is still there. While we stand tall, while our branches (perhaps our good works, our life experiences, our prayers) are flowering and with some trees, even bearing fruit, our foundations, our trunks are still in danger of predators nibbling away little by little. Beavers could come along overnight and destroy us. The fence, God's wall of protection is there to keep us safe for many years. We can now look at it as a blessing, not a means of confinement.

Trees, like people, continue to grow and mature, but eventually die. What I think is pretty cool about trees is that when they die, they still serve a purpose. They become a habitat for animals, providing shelter and food. In other words, their legacy lives on. When I'm out walking in the woods, I might see a large felled tree and say, "Wow, what a mighty tree that was in its day!"

What will be said about us?

Blessings Along the Path as You Grow in Faith,

Haven't you put a protective fence around him, his home and everything he has? You have blessed everything he does (Job 1:10)

Well done good and faithful servant (Matt 25:23)



  1. Mary, thank you for this inspiring post. The beautiful tree analogy reminded me of God's merciful protection at all stages of our lives. Your words greatly blessed me.

  2. Thank you, once again, Mary Ann for your kind words!