My son-in-law, Zach, gave me my Father's Day present a little early this year. Before we moved into our townhouse, a large tree had died along the fence line dividing us from the neighboring apartment building. We got permission from our homeowner's association to replant a tree. There was only one problem: a humongous stump–about three feet in diameter–was in the way.
That's when it comes in handy to have a son-in-law. Zach went to a tree farm and picked out a beautiful sugar maple. Before heading out of town on a work trip, I suggested that Zach plant the maple beside the old stump, even though it was a less desirable position. But Zach wanted to do it right. He dug and dug and dug. Several neighbors came by to watch and encourage. It took all morning and half the afternoon to fully remove the remains of the old tree.
When planting time finally arrived, Zach backed up the pickup truck as close to the hole as possible. The root ball must have weighed a couple hundred pounds. Zach recruited Nancy to position the trunk while he backfilled. One of our neighbors gave us a water gaiter so we could keep the roots moist throughout summer. Zach returned later with a load of mulch to reduce evaporation and competition from weeds.
Every time I walk by that tree, I marvel. And every evening when I admire the tree from our bedroom window, I thank God for sharing his love of trees with me (and giving me a son-in-law with a strong back).
Last year, I read through the Bible underlining everything that Scripture says about trees. From the Tree of Life in Genesis to the Tree of Life in Revelation, I discovered a forest with deep roots in faith. The first psalm says that a righteous person is like a tree. Abraham welcomes the angels under the oaks of Mamre; Deborah holds court under the palms; Zacchaeus shinnies up a sycamore-fig to see the Savior.
Most importantly, Jesus, the new Adam, plants a tree–the cross–on Calvary and waters it with his blood, sweat, and tears. The Apostle Paul tells us that in heaven the leaves of the Tree of Life will heal the nations and bear fruit in every season.
This summer, I have begun writing a book about trees and faith. Writing does not come easily for me. I rely on the Holy Spirit and the prayers of friends like you to help me.
It's been a wet summer so far, and Zach's tree is flourishing. I hope that in days to come, my writing will help the faith of others flourish as well.
Matthew Sleeth is the author of several books, including Serve God, Save the Planet: A Christian Call to Action, the introduction to the Green Bible, and 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life. He is also executive director of Blessed Earth, an educational nonprofit that inspires and equips people of faith to become better stewards of the earth.