Last summer we moved to Georgia. I wanted to run away. As soon as the buses took my kids, I ran hard toward the dark canopy of the trees near our new house.
My anger matched the summer sun and my fear matched the thick humidity. I would remember my kids crying about school, getting lost on the way to the store, and all the love we left behind. I would pound that pain into the winding path. Forsaken and alone I didn’t pray anymore. But the trees sheltered me with leaves larger than my face. I would run panting across the intersecting roads to get back under their generous covering, grateful.
From the very first run I felt the woods offering me friendship. I was enchanted. Ducks and dogs rushed to greet me. Shiny laughing crows teased me. Deer and sparrows tiptoed in the periphery. Spotted red mushrooms smiled. The lake sparkled.
The trees were my favorite. The short one with blue flowers at her feet cheering me on at the start, the arched one reminding me the big hill was up ahead, the jagged one that threw spider webs at my face. Such a tease. I started to feel like I belonged with these new friends.
I ran longer and farther in the autumn air. I was lonely. I slowly started to talk with God a little in the woods. “Thank you for these bright yellow leaves. For these little red ones. For the fat brown ones. Thank you for this quiet beauty.” The trees left treasures for me at every turn. Acorns with jaunty green caps to share with my daughter, bouquets of terracing yellow mushrooms, and huge pine cones. It felt like courtship.
Now for the first time, I’m running in winter. I couldn’t bear to be without my trees. I wear a hat with earflaps, gloves, and long underwear to meet them. Even though my nose runs and the cold air burns my lungs, I feel happy on the path. I lift my eyes into their high bare branches, and know they are still sheltering me. I can see better which trunks sit fat and grumpy and how the skinny ones sway, a little drunk. I nod to the family of white trees that cautiously bend toward the lake and those standoffish dark ones deep behind the stream. They are stark and honest. We’ve accepted each other.
Last week I fell. I was a mile from home, away from the roads, where the hill swells, the path turns sharp, and the trees are close together. Alone and in pain, I lay flat on the path, crying. I looked up. I saw my trees, and honest to goodness, they bent toward me. In their nearness I heard God say, “I see you.”
She gave this name to the LORD who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” – Genesis 16:13
I’m so thankful for the friendship and ministry of these trees. They are the disguises God wore to be near me, when I refused to talk face to face. When I needed to feel safe in this new place, he shielded me under his branches. When I needed to feel wanted, he left gifts at my feet. When I needed to be rescued, he bent down close.
I’m not running away from my new life, or from God, anymore. Now I’m running to meet him.
“My beloved spoke and said to me, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, come with me.” – Song of Solomon 2:10
One way to connect with God today:
- Look out the window or go for a walk. Invite Jesus to join you.
- What trees do you see? What tree are you most drawn to?
- List all the ways you are like that tree.
- Consider the scriptures below to expand your conversation with God who sees you.
Tree Scriptures for when you feel:
- Worshipping & Grateful – 1 Chronicles 16:33, Psalm 96:2
- Forsaken & Injured – Job 19:10, Job 24:20, Jeremiah 8:13; Habakkuk 3:16-18; Matthew 21:19
- Fruitful & Rewarded – Psalm 52:8, Psalm 92:12, Ezekiel 17:22-24; Ezekiel 47:12
- Hopeful & Steadfast – Psalm 1:3, Isaiah 44:4, Jeremiah 17:8