As Terri and I walked on a good number of trails in Northern California’s Redwoods we saw some very interesting sights. This picture of a younger and skinnier redwood leaning against one that was more substantive brought back memories of when I worked at Buck Creek Camp at the base of Mount Rainer. During the silent hours of the camp, when the forest was engulfed in darkness, I heard many creeks and groans from the trees. I talking about the sounds with folks who had spent a lot more time in the forest than had I, I soon learned that many of those sounds came from trees we labeled as “leaners.”
A leaner tree is one that has begun to fall. We don’t know the reason for its fall. We weren’t present when the fall began. My general assumption is that it fell because the ground had become too water saturated and a storm came along with winds that were greater than its root system could stand. It is obvious that the tree did not complete its journey. In the midst of falling it was caught by another tree, supported, and was given a chance to have its roots ‘get a grip’ resulting in it becoming stable and
growing tree once again. It the bigger tree had not been present the younger tree would have completed its fall and begun its life of becoming fertilizer for something in the future.
What a great illustration about the Christian faith and our need for genuine community. Different than what I saw in the Redwoods where the vast majority of trees were either standing quite tall and true or had fallen and begun the decay process, most of us have or are falling. As the Apostle Paul reminded those early Christians in Rome: “There is none righteous, no not one; There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God…” (3:10, 11). He was simply paraphrasing what David had said centuries before (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3). During our lives most of us need someone to lean on, to keep us upward bound, to give us those extra moments where we can allow our roots to sink a bit more deeply into the ground of our faith. If I don’t have that need today, the chances are that most likely I will tomorrow.
Again, the Apostle Paul said it so well as he was completing his letter to the Galatians (6:1-5
1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. 3 If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, 5 for each one should carry his own load.
Leaners. We all need someone to lean on. Who provides that ministry to you? To whom can you turn when you feel you are failing…falling in your spiritual life? Who will listen to you without condemnation? Who will encourage you (kick you in the rear!) as you need it? Who will turn to you in like fashion? Who has the Lord given to you to catch you when you start to fall so your roots can grow strong once again?