Trees can teach people much about life, and they can help us repent. First, let’s look at why it’s good for a tree to repent.
I recently heard one of the trees in my back yard say, “Thank heavens for Miracle Grow.” MG is Prozac for plants.
What are the glory days for a tree—the late teen years thru the twenties when they were invincible? Invincibility is a delusion rather than a reality. Maybe the sense of invincibility is more closely tied to adaptability and an energy for growth that overwhelms any awareness or desire to stay the same. Death is the cessation of the dynamic flow of life through an organism. Organisms that are not open to change are dead.
Do trees get tired of adapting to changes in the environment and say things like, “I’m not going to learn this new technology stuff?” or “Why do we have to clap our hands and sing new hymns to praise God, what’s wrong with the old ones?”
Energy for life is more about perception than a physical phenomenon related to age. With the addition of years in people, there tends to be a hardening of one’s ability to adapt. When your perceptions solidify and can’t change, death comes near—because life is about change. The universe itself continues to expand like the rings of a living tree. Trees that don’t expand and adapt will die.
Death is a relative term. It can refer to the body, the mind, the spirit. It can be found in organisms, organizations, or words on the pages of a book. Death can advance in degrees. You can be a little bit dead, or a lot dead.
Death is a personal attribute rather than something you can apply to measure another person. The deader you are, the more you see adaptability in others as a barrier to the status quo. Pointing out the deadness in others makes you feel you are more alive than you are.
Death is more comfortable than life. Nothing changes in death. There’s no energy required for growth. Staying the same is easy. New life is hard. Like so many wise people have said, “If you’re not growing, you’re dying.” There’s no staying the same.
The older you get, and the more stuck in your ways you become, the more necessary it is to repent. Trees know how to repent because it’s necessary for life. To repent is not to be sorry that things around you are fluctuating, it’s to change your mind that it would be more comfortable to stay the same than to adapt.
The definition of the Greek word metanoia translated as “repent” is to “change your mind” or “change the way you think.”
Trees have figured it out. They’ve stopped wishing they had it easier like animals that can physically move and change their environment if the animal doesn’t like the one it’s living in. Trees learn to change the way they think about the terrible soil, the cloudy weather, the lack of light they are exposed to because of the overbearing nature of the trees around them.
How can they do this? They’ve discovered that life can bring a change of its own that impacts the environment and improves it, like a fire, tornado, or ice storm can appear at any time and remove some of those negative forces around them. Sometimes they change the conditions themselves by dropping their leaves/expectations and letting them work their way into the soil.
Because they can repent, trees receive the fruits of the Spirit—patience, longsuffering, faithfulness, generosity, joy, and an overall commitment to the wellbeing of those around them (love). These fruits come to them because trees are strengthened by adapting to their circumstances and focus on life rather than bemoan the presence of new conditions.
So if you want life, maybe you need to make like a tree—and repent. Be open to changing the way you think.