There is a tree in our backyard. Under the tree is a large mulched area where my kids play. This mulched area includes a swing set and a small plastic log cabin. There is also a row of large pavers running through the mulch, providing a trail for my kids. My kids play under this tree for hours each day. The branches and leaves on the tree hang low enough that when they are playing under the tree, I’m sure they feel like they are in their own little hideout, sheltered from the rest of the world where no one else can see or hear them.
Yesterday I watched as they played. The younger two pretended to be a pirate and a mermaid. They ran between the log cabin, the swing set and all through the mulch while their imaginations took them on pirate ships and far away islands. My older son and his friend played a hybrid of baseball and kickball being careful not to run into any pirates or mermaids.
The tree provides a bounty of resources for my kids. In the summertime this tree gives much-needed shade on a sunny day. If it weren’t for this tree, outdoor play in August would be next to impossible. In the fall, as the tree starts to shut down for the winter, my kids break off the low hanging limbs to be used for swords and walking sticks or whatever uses three small children with wild imaginations can create. This is the first tree my son has learned to climb and while he currently climbs only to the first branch located about 4 feet off the ground, I can tell he has high hopes of one day reaching to the top.
Some days the tree is intricately woven into their play. They rely so heavily on the tree that if I were to say, “stop touching the tree,” an eruption of complaints would follow.
Some days it’s as if they don’t even remember it’s there. They are so focused on the other things in the yard that the tree brings very little value to them.
But the tree is always there. Whether they acknowledge it or not, the tree is there. As their mom watching them from the kitchen window, I can hardly separate the tree from my memory of them playing in the backyard because the tree is so often the first thing I see when I look to find them.
Years from now, I’m guessing the swing set will be gone. The plastic log cabin will have long been donated to charity. But the tree will remain. Storms might come and take out a limb or two, but the tree will remain. I imagine that the tree will remain at that house long after our family does.
As I watched my kids play yesterday and thought about that tree I thought about how God is the constant tree in my life. God has always been there whether I acknowledged it or not. There were times when I was so tightly intertwined in God’s branches that there was no denying that presence. There were other times, however, that I was so distracted by the other things of life that God’s branches didn’t feel the least bit connected to me.
But God’s tree was always there; I was always playing under it. And long after the things of this world fade away, God’s tree will remain.