Slowly my bare feet padded across the grass. I stopped. My toes curled and my head tilted back, catching slivers of sunshine across my face. The straight, thin trunk rose up before me; the branches spread out in a canopy against the sky, woven together like the pieces of a basket or the threads of cloth. The yellowed leaves that still clung desperately to the ends of the branches dotted the grass beneath with their shadows. It was here I found my place of refuge. This tree promised protection, comfort, and beauty - a place I could weep or dream as the occasion called for it.
We moved away from the house with that tall tree when I was thirteen. As much as I regretted leaving behind the fruit which the tree produced for a few weeks out of every year, I also acutely felt the loss of my hiding place. It was a spot I had run to many times over the years, marching in circles around the trunk as I spit out words of anger or plopping myself down in the shade, pen and paper in hand, slowly scratching out the words of my newest poem. The grass around it was often watered with my tears or plucked up in contemplation.
Not too long ago, my sister and I drove by the house of our childhood. Over the top of the wooden fence one could only see sky and I was struck by how stark and empty it looked – too bright and unwelcoming. I mourned that there were no longer confident branches to spread their shade over the lanky body of a distraught nine year old.
I don’t really know what it is about trees. One day, while at college, I wandered across my campus to a lone tree that stands in the back. I clumsily arranged myself among the roots and then sat there with my back leaning against the rough bark. It seemed to me a place of peace as I felt the wind blow gently across my face and watched the sun as it hovered in the sky about to set and shoot out radiant colors. Somewhere in the back of my mind I was reminded of the days spent beneath a tree as a girl and I decided to come back often. I would come back to the tree which promised to shade me with its twisted branches and uphold me with its strength and deep-seated roots. For when I seek the shelter of a tree, I am encouraged to think of its Creator. I know it is not truly the strength or comfort of a tree that I seek, but the sheltering hand and unwavering faithfulness of my Sovereign Lord and Savior. He gives me physical places to escape to, but will not let me forget that these places are not permanent; I can find no true rest if it is not to Him that I fly. I find my true shelter under the ultimate tree: beneath the cross of Jesus.