The Seed of God's Life
Sometimes, we only respond to what we can see in nature even though everything that we look upon is part of a much greater providential story. I have always had a fondness for trees and marvelled at their diversity.
Trees are not a separate classification of plants. Instead, different groups of plants evolved independently to grow upwards to benefit from the sunlight. Estimates suggest that there are over 60,000 species of tree in the world.
Trees play a vital role in ecosystems by providing habitats for communities of organisms. They stabilise the soil, contribute to climate maintenance and sustain biodiversity. Some trees can live for thousands of years and are amongst the oldest organisms living on our planet.
The oldest tree in Ireland is thought to be the Silken Thomas Yew, which has grown for 800 years in Maynooth, Co. Kildare. Given their stature and great age, there has always been a strong link between trees and human culture.
In Celtic mythology, trees hold a special significance; as does Yggdrasil, the World Ash tree of Norse mythology. From sacred groves to trees of peace, these plants have long been associated with the wellbeing of humankind.
In Genesis, the Tree of Life is associated with ongoing physical life. In Revelation, the leaves of the Tree of Life symbolise the healing of nations. In the New Earth that follows human redemption, our relationship with the Tree of Life is forever restored. Overcoming the destruction and devastation caused by sin leads once again to the Tree of Life, which is in the paradise of God.
The Tree of Life grows beside the river of life. Without water, a tree cannot grow. But, the water does not just sustain the tree. It is shared with all. This gives us some insight into the way God uses water in the plan of salvation. The cleansing of the earth, freedom from the slavery of sin and the renewal of life are all related to the transformative effects of water.
When we are baptised, we are transformed by water and spirit. These spiritual truths take us beyond nature. Yet, when we forge positive relationships with nature, we can better contemplate the goodness of God’s creation.
Water is essential for life but living water is not stagnant. It moves constantly in ways that we might not appreciate. When I think of the movement of water through trees, I cannot help sensing something of spiritual renewal.
The following two-minute video shows how water moves through trees.
Water containing vital minerals enters a tree through the roots and travels up through narrow vessels into the leaves. The travelling nutrients contribute to the process of photosynthesis, which sustains the growth of the tree. Ninety percent of the water exits the tree through tiny openings in the leaves. The beneficial loss of water through the tree is known as transpiration.
But, this water is not really ‘lost’. It is a gift for nature. It enters the earth’s atmosphere and cools the trees and every organism around the trees. This forms part of the water cycle that accounts for the journey of water from the land to the sky and back again. Water moves from the rivers, lakes and seas into the air, cools and falls as rain eventually making its way back to the sea.
So, when we admire a tree, we are really glimpsing much more than we can actually see. Everything is connected and there is always a much larger story to tell.
When we spend time in the great outdoors, it is good to remember that the seed of God’s life is flowing through nature and renewing creation. By leading us through water to the promised land, Jesus opens the way to our salvation.