By the time you are reading this, I am (hopefully!) home from Egypt, but needed some margin to reconnect with my family and recharge. You are in for a treat though from this week’s guest blog post!
My sweet friend, Ali Sloop, exudes Jesus in everything she does. She has a heart for women and she and I serve together on our church’s Women’s Ministry team. Ali works as a Stormwater Compliance Specialist at James Madison University and enjoys spending her time with her husband and two children.
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Over the last year, I have looked at a lot of trees, thousands of them actually. I have observed each tree’s leaves, trunk, bark, their form, branches, buds, and flowers. I have seen young saplings eagerly reaching their branches to the sky and I have seen stumps of trees once standing tall.
Recently, one of those stumps caught my attention. Looking over the stump, I observed several wounds that the tree had endured. None of these wounds looked like they would have been visible simply by looking at the outside of the tree when it was still standing, unless you witnessed the wound when it happened. These wounds were now on the inside. As I looked at one of the smaller wounds, I began to wonder what had happened: a weed whacker, an ice storm, a woodpecker looking for a meal? My eyes moved to the largest wound on the stump, one that had a hollow middle. Impossible to say what happened to cause that large wound, but it had certainly left a mark. I was struck (and still am) by how many wounds this tree had endured in its life.
I knew God wanted me to take notice of this stump and the wounds of this particular tree. He was trying to tell me something, as He often does, with His creation. I was reminded of the last part of verse 3 in Isaiah 61.
“…They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.”
I began to think about the life of this tree, it was likely 80-100 years old. I thought about how it grew and grew from a small acorn. How it suffered injury after injury, evident in its stump, yet it continued to grow upwards and outward until it reached maturity.
Taking in the wounds of this tree, I began to look at these words from Isaiah and this stump with fresh eyes. I believe if you were to examine the inside of any mature tree, you will find at least one wound within its core. There are no perfect trees.
What happens when a tree gets wounded? The fresh tissue exposed by the wound disperses a chemical that attracts pests to prey on the tree while it is vulnerable. The tree immediately begins the process of sealing the wound. Trees cannot regenerate tissue, like animals can. The injured tissue of a tree is not repaired. Instead, the tree “walls off” the injured tissues, using chemical and physical boundaries in order to prevent the wounded area from getting infected by those pests that are attracted to the now vulnerable tissues. Infected tissue will cause decay inside the tree and eventually will kill the tree. It is important the tree seals the wound off as quickly as it can. After the wounded tissues are walled off, then new wood growth begins forming a protective barrier keeping any decay that might develop in the wound from infecting healthy wood cells nearby.
It reminds me of the verse in Psalms 147:3. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” And the verse in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!”
Jesus binds our wounds. Jesus creates new life in us. He is the new wood to protect us from the old, from the decaying tissue that wants to harm us. I looked back at the stump. I looked even more closely at its wounds. They had all been sealed off by new growth. Some wounds had left a bigger mark than others and some were barely noticeable.
I couldn’t stop thinking about the largest wound that I had mentioned earlier. It must have been a large injury and it must have taken the tree a long time to seal it off, because the hollow part inside showed that decay had started, but the new wood that had grown around the wound had kept the rest of the tree protected.
And that’s when God asked me, What wound are you not letting me seal? What wound are you not letting me grow new wood around?
So I ask you that as well. Is there a past injury, a past wound, a past affliction that, like me, you are holding onto? Maybe it is a wound you thought you had given to God to seal up, but you never quite let go of it. Maybe it is a wound that you had forgotten about, buried deep within you. Maybe the wound is so fresh that you can get past the pain of it. Whether your wound is old or new, buried or forgotten, God wants to bind it up! He wants the old to be gone and the new to come!
Those wounds God is working on sealing up and growing new wood around, tell someone what He is doing. Share your story, wounds and all, about how God’s majesty and mercy and grace and forgiveness and power and love sealed it up or is in the process of sealing up. How God made you new. How God took a wound that could have turned into decay and bound it up. You and me, we are oaks of righteousness, wounds and all, that God planted to display His splendor and majesty.
And all we have to do, like that tree did until its last day, is keep reaching towards the Son.