Susan Sparks: Three Redwood Wishes
Toby and I took an epic trip over Thanksgiving. First, Amtrak across the country from Chicago to LA in a sleeper car. Then a drive through the great national parks of California, including visits to the sequoia and redwood trees.
Anyone who has stood in the presence of redwoods knows that it's a holy experience. As I walked under their great canopy, I began to wonder: what if these massive trees could talk? What wisdom would they share with our twenty-first-century society? What redwood wishes might be offered for our broken world?
While I'm not sure of the answer, if I had to guess, I'd say they would share three wishes. And those three wishes would come straight out of Corinthians 13: 7: "Love bears all things, love believes and hopes all things, love endures all things."
Redwood Wish #1: Bear Each Other up
One of the tallest living things on earth, redwoods can grow up to four hundred feet in height (comparable to a thirty-five-story building). But they don't reach these towering heights by sinking their roots down into the ground. They grow to these heights by sending their roots out -- horizontally -- and connecting with the other trees in the forest. In short, they're tall because they bear each other up.
Redwood Wish #2: Believe and Hope All Things Good
As I sat in that forest, I was struck by the cycle of life all around me. There were the great mature trees forming a huge canopy shading the entire forest. Then there were the tiny seedlings; scrappy, feisty little green shoots straining, reaching up and out to find sunlight to help them grow.
Perhaps that's what meant in 1 Corinthians when it says, "love believes all things and hopes all things." Love looks for the good. Like those little seedlings, it strains to find the best, the sunlight in others.
But of course, there's a trick. In order to see the best in others, we have to be able to see it in ourselves. Unfortunately, many of us tend to go to the negative first, the faults first, the flaws first. We forget that we are made in the image of the divine; that each of us at our core is holy and loveable and full of sunlight. There is a reason that the bible says, "love your neighbor AS yourself." Like the sunlight for those little seedlings, love is about finding the good in ourselves and our neighbor; it is about finding our source of life and being.
Redwood Wish #3: Endure with an Eye Towards the Longview
Not only are redwoods some of the tallest living creatures, they are some of the oldest, many dating back two thousand years. That means that some of these trees have lived through everything from the Roman Empire to Lady Gaga.
It makes you wonder: how would our lives be different if we had such a long view of the world. How would our choices - our life - be different with such a perspective?
It is so easy to get caught up in our day to day stress, the "crisis" de jour staring at us from our inbox, the ringing phone, the emails, the tweets. While these may seem important now, if we look at them with an eye to the long view, they begin to fade into obscurity. In the long view things like family, community, health, joy, and compassion become the clear priorities.
Do we bear each other up? Do we believe and hope all things good? Do we take the long view? Our lives might take a different turn if we would only begin to orient our path toward love, compassion, and these three redwood wishes.