It was a sunny afternoon in my backyard. The old man stood at the base of a small hill and looked up the slope to a little stand of trees and brush. His wrinkled and leathered exterior belied a kind and gentle nature. A closer look would discover a twinkle in his eyes. This was Grandpa Gregerson, my wife’s grandfather. He had worked hard most of his life. Now his working days were over. He and Grandma had come down from the rural north country and were visiting our home.
I said, “What kind of tree is it?”
He looked up the hill with some keener attention and began to move up the short slope to stand in front of the tree I had asked about. Its leaves hung chest high. He took a small branch and leaves in his hands and considered them. After a few moments he let them go and stepped forward into the cascade of leaves. They engulfed his upper body. And he just stood there silent for some minutes lost among the leaves and low hanging branches. Just stood there.
I imagined he was going back in time to his boyhood and adolescence and adulthood. His days climbing trees and having adventures of all kinds. I imagined a lifetime relived in a few moments among the leaves. Rich memories and hard lessons. Time seemed to hesitate and wait.
He stepped back from the tree and said, “It’s a Hackberry.”
Then he turned around and walked silently back to the house. When my wife’s grandparents had left, I looked up “hackberry” and the old guy was right. It was a hackberry tree. Did I mention the twinkle in the old guy’s eyes?
I think of that experience now and realize it tells an important story. It illustrates a guiding principle for me.
The lesson for me falls along this line: I must be willing to immerse myself in situations in order to draw out the truth of those moments. How so? Here are several ways I can live this.
First, in my relationships. I must be willing to immerse myself in the lives of other people. I must be willing to engage with others. Not superficially but in earnest. I must get “lost among the leaves and low hanging branches”. This is the only place to truly understand others. I must get lost in their world and breath their reality. I think if I can do that I can begin, just begin, to understand the truth of their experiences. And maybe, as I reflect on my own days, I can be a true friend to a fellow traveler through this world. We are, after all, just sojourners here.
Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears! For I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my fathers.Psalm 39:12, ESV
I am reminded of Jesus, wearied from travel and resting by Jacob’s well.
And he had to pass through Samaria. So he came to a town of Samaria called Sychar, near the field that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour.
A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.”John 4:4-10, ESV
Though wearied as he was, Jesus engages the woman in a simple conversation. A conversation that, by all accounts, was not even culturally acceptable. And the conversation turns from drinking water to the presence of living water. The divine unfolding in the everyday affairs of people interacting and caring for each other. Though wearied from travel, Jesus had allowed himself to become “lost among the leaves and low hanging branches” of this woman’s life. And, we know from the story, that the entire region was affected for good. I must be willing to step in.
Second, in my relationship with God and His Word. Again, I must be willing to immerse myself in the Lord’s world and His Word. Oh, I must get “lost among the leaves and low hanging branches”. He has deep things for me and each of us if only we will lose ourselves in Him.
How can I do this? Just step in.
He is the true thing – the I AM at the bottom of the world. The Lord is more than a snatched prayer here and there. He is an ever-conversation, an always-there presence and true person. He is at each moment God Almighty and my dear personal friend. This is not an academic view. This is the truth of God’s faithfulness to each of us. We must step into His world with continual communion and fellowship. And the same is true of His Word. Yes, we read it regularly, we have our schedules. But do we allow ourselves to get lost in His wonder. He has spoken with us! He does not tell stories just to tell stories. God tells stories to share with each of us who He is and how deep His love and commitment is to each of us. He shares with us His most valuable treasure – Himself. He does this through His words.
He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of the wilderness; he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.Deuteronomy 32:10, ESV
Oh, our Lord Eternal is moving through the multitudes and He is telling a story. Let us touch the edge of His garment. Our faith can take us at least that far. At once the heavens burst forth in radiance and praise, and our Shepherd sees us. We could almost say there is a twinkle in His eye. Did you see it?
Featured image by wirestock.