Have you ever thought about the intelligence of a tree? Or are you now wondering about my own intelligence for asking such a weird question? Well...yesterday at church I got to thinking about trees and how they grow, and it got me thinking about how we relate as people.
So here it goes, my Parable of the Tree.
There once was a tree, very young and small. There were few branches to this tree, nothing great of note. The tree lived in a vast forest of thick pines, oaks, pecans, and cedars. Everywhere the tree looked, stood older, wiser, and grander trees. Overtime, the little tree grew frustrated, ever trying to grow tall, yet remaining ever so small. He tried everything he could to catch up to the forest around him. He bent east in the morning and west in the evening, trying to soak as much sun as possible. He stretched his leaves out as much as they could strain, yet to little avail. At times the little tree felt so proud of the growth he saw occurring, yet inside knew there was something amiss.
One day as the little tree slept, he awoke to a crack and a hollow thud. There lay next to him the oak, he daily admired. As the oak lay still, the little tree asked, "Are you okay?"
"Unfortunately not," replied the oak, "I'm afraid this is the beginning of the end for me."
"What happened?", asked the little tree in great alarm, "how could this happen to you?"
To this the oak gave his solemn reply, "Little tree, I have looked at you for months now, admiring your potential. I watched you anxiously trying to become like the other trees in the forest. I too did the same. Over time I became tall, and believed I had achieved, however, I now know better. You see little tree, trees don't know how to grow tall."
"What!!", interrupted the little tree, "what do you mean trees don't know how to grow tall...how could that be?"
"You see, seeing yourself as a small, insignificant tree, only forces you to think getting tall is the way to succeed, however, this is false. Trees don't know how to grow to tall, they only know how to grow roots."
"Huh?", replied the little tree.
"Yes, my little friend, you heard me correctly. When you were a small seed, you never thought to grow tall, rather you only worried about growing roots. I watched you spread your little roots deep into the rich soil. You were so happy to feel the ground and explore the little forest around you. I watched you look at other little seedlings and help them on their way. I watched you smile and begin to sprout. You were so small and innocent, and I prayed for you to continue growing your roots. You did just that. Your small sprout became strong and you began to spread your branches. You even survived a strong storm, not long after your first branch. And then something changed. I saw you begin looking at other trees. I saw you look at me the way I looked at other trees. I wanted so badly to come down to you, but couldn't quite yet. I wanted to tell you that this forest is misleading and very misunderstood. I wanted to show you the trees who have endured the test of time and the ones who won't.
You see, little tree, there are few trees in this forest who understand that their strength is their roots, not in their height. I too fell victim to my height, and now it is too late. The storm last night tested me beyond my strength. My whole life I felt less than the other trees, weak, not good enough, so I focused on becoming like them. What I didn't know is they were and are all doing the same thing...trying to grow as they see me growing. Our forest grew in a way based on competition. I believed I was only as good as the tree next to me wasn't. Please little tree, never give up your roots. Never forget your strength. Never forget what has been holding you all this time. You will grow up as strong as your roots are wide. Your purpose is not to grow tall, but to show others how to grow strong. You see little tree, you are a part of me, and growing tall is only done by separating yourself from others, please never let this happen."
And with his last short breath the oak whispered, "Show the other little seedlings their strength is not in their height, but is in growing roots wide enough to connect to other trees. It's how forests are supposed to grow."
And with this, the admired oak fell silent. As the little tree took in what he had just heard, he noticed something he had never felt before. Unseen and hidden beneath the dirt were his roots, tightly grasping what was now recognizable to him; the Oak.