A few years ago, my family took our first real vacation. You know, where you buy airline tickets and new luggage. We went to Estes Park, Colorado at the suggestion of a friend. She told me amazing stories of the time she spent there with her daughters and husband. I really wanted that.
I had never been to the mountains in Colorado. My vacations growing up were mostly in the southern United States at the beach. We didn’t venture too far from our Alabama home in my family. There was this tree that really caught my eye on our vacation. It was high up on a mountain and crooked, knotty and bent to one side, not immediately attractive but I was drawn to it and saw its beauty.
The tree that lives best in harsh environments
I studied up on it and I learned more than I expected. This is a bristlecone pine tree. They are long-lived and highly resilient to severe weather and bad soils. These trees can be found laying down, like face down at treelines or they can grow up to 40 feet high in protected forests.
They survive the strongest of winds in the worst of winters. There is actually a bristlecone pine tree in California that is the oldest living tree on Earth. They are able to grow in sunny, dry, rocky, and bare ground. The cones open up when mature, releasing the seeds immediately after opening. One of the three species, Pinus longaeva, is among the longest-lived life forms on Earth.
These trees generally compete best in harsh environments. The bristlecone pine is extremely drought tolerant. The wood is very dense, resinous and resistant to invasion by insects, fungi, and other potential pests. The tree’s longevity is due to the wood’s extreme durability. While other species of trees that grow nearby suffer rot, bare bristlecone pines can endure. Even after death they can still be found standing on their roots for many centuries. Rather than rot, exposed wood on living and dead trees erodes like stone due to wind, rain, and freezing and creates unusual forms and shapes. Almost like they are sculpted by the elements.
The lessons I learned from this tree
The trees bend to the point of breaking but remain steadfast. Through the harsh conditions of their environment they recover and adapt. This tree looks dead compared to the green, upstanding trees all around. But it is alive, resilient, withstanding, and durable. What lessons have I learned from observing this specimen?
This tree is me.
1 – There are times and places when I am to remain low (in mixed company, like the pine in a treeline) and others when I am to stand straight and high (when protected and armored up, like the pine in a protected forest).
2 – I am made to survive the harshest of conditions. Despite bad soil, I will thrive. I must accept this. God made me this way. I also must accept that all “trees” are not made like me. Some are much more appealing to look at but not as resilient.
3 – I can grow in any atmosphere. If I am continually seeking nourishment, using my reserves, and being who I am made to be, not trying to be someone else. (sunny, rocky, dry, and even bare ground).
4 – I must release that which has matured in me immediately. Don’t let it rot and die. Release it to cultivate a new crop.
5 – I work best under pressure and difficult circumstances. I am also able to tolerate dry periods well and resist temptation to quench my thirst with something other than that Deep Well.
6 – I am resilient to pests…criticism and gossip. I will not live by your praises or die by your criticisms.
7 – Though parts of me must die, my roots are strong and keep me alive.
8 – The parts of me that have been crucified have shaped a testimony that bears witness to others of my durability and God’s faithfulness to withstand the storms and harsh conditions of this life.
God truly spoke to me on this trip. He affirmed me. He reminded me that He made me who I am. It has always been within me and my gifts were drawn out through adversity. Some of us come to Him in a conversion like Paul and others are like John, leaping in the womb. Who are you? Do you know?
Ask God to reveal your identity. He will show you the best parts of yourself.