Lessons Learned Under an Old Tree

J.R. Miller

The tree is often used in the Bible in illustrating worthy and beautiful characters. A godly man, the first psalm tells us, is like a tree planted by streams of water, which brings forth its fruit in its season. In one of the minor prophets, the deep rooting and wide branching of a tree, are especially suggested as illustrating phases of character and usefulness. "He shall cast forth his roots as Lebanon. His branches shall spread." The cedar of Lebanon sends its roots down deep into the earth. If it did not, it could not stand in the mighty sweep of the storms.

The ROOT is not a conspicuous part of the tree. Indeed, it is not seen at all. No one praises it. It creeps down into the dark earth and is hidden out of sight. But it is of prime importance. It feeds the tree's life and it holds the tree in its place.

No life can remain steadfast without deep rooting. Shallow rooting means a feeble power of resistance. Because it lacked root, the seed sown on rocky ground withered in the first hot sun.

We cannot find any sheltered place to live in where no storms shall beat upon us. Christ himself faced the most terrific temptations and trials. No follower of his can hope for a life without antagonism. There must be strength of character to withstand temptation, as well as purity of heart to look into God's face. God's trees must be rooted in Christ.

It takes both the gentleness of the lily and the strength of the cedar to make a true Christian character. Gentleness without strength, is weakness. Strength without gentleness, is only brute force. But sweetness and strength combined yield mature Christian manhood.

If there is deep rooting, there will also be a corresponding extension of the boughs. True life broadens as it grows deeper. We all begin little but we ought not to continue little. We should grow into men, putting away childish things. Some people, however, seem never to advance in spiritual life.

One of the strange anomalies of Japanese horticulture, is the cultivation of dwarf trees. The Japanese grow forest giants in flower-pots. Some of these strange miniature trees are a century old, and yet are only two or three feet high. The gardener, instead of trying to get them to grow to their best, takes infinite pains to keep them little. From the time of their planting, they are repressed, starved, crippled, stunted, their life kept back. When buds appear, they are nipped off. So the tree remains only a dwarf through all the years.

Some Christian people seem to do the same with their lives. They stunt them. They make dwarf Christians of themselves, never allowing their inner life to develop. They rob themselves of spiritual nourishment, restrain all the noble impulses of their nature, shut out of their hearts the power of the Holy Spirit and are only baby Christians, little dwarfs when they might be and ought to be strong in Christ, with the abundant life which he desires to give to all his followers.

There is not breadth enough in many of our lives. We ought to grow in height reaching up to the fullness of the stature of Christ. Then we ought to grow in breadth, in the outreach of our lives.

Love is the great central quality of all true Christian character, and love should increase continually. The life that does not reach outside of its own little circumference, has not begun to understand the meaning of its responsibility.

It is said also of this tree that those who dwell under its shadow shall return. The picture is very beautiful and wondrously suggestive of the shelter and the refreshment which are found under the branches of a wide-spreading tree.

Just so, there are people beneath the shadow of whose love and strength and beneficence, others come and find rest and comfort. They live to minister to others not to be ministered unto by others. They seek to do good to everyone they meet. Their doors are ever open to those who come needing counsel, cheer, help and hope. They are an unspeakable blessing, strength and comfort in the world. Their lives are like trees which cast a wide shadow, under which children play, beneath which the weary stop in their journey, to rest.

This lesson is one we should seek ever to learn for ourselves. No one should be willing to cast a shadow only for himself, to keep himself but no other, cool in the summer heat. We should seek to make grateful shade and shelter for earth's hunted ones, weary ones, sorrowing ones.

Too many people are eager to broaden their lives but only to gather the more into their grasp, for selfish ends and purposes; not to bless the world but to gain the world for their own enriching.

Others there are who seek to draw people to them, under their influence, whose branches do not make a safe and wholesome shelter for the weary, the troubled and the imperiled but rather a poisoned shadow in which the innocent are harmed and the unwary ruined!

We who are Christians should be like trees of blessing, under which others may come, sure of finding only shelter, comfort and good.