” Sometimes it felt like I was a mile high (which of course I wasn’t). When I pushed myself to climb near the top where the tree would sway back and forth and fear was real; I would pat myself on the back for daring so much. I guess I was looking for the limits of my reach.”
By Lamon Napper Jr.
Matthew 6:28-30 KJV
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
Scriptures like these have shown me that much can be learned from God by opening my eyes and looking around a bit. Outside, in the midst of His handiwork, truth is waiting to be discovered. Besides, a long walk sometimes is just what I need to feel fresh and alive again.
Before we moved to where we are now, our home was in rural Harrison County, Indiana. We had moved from an apartment in a small mid-western city, to a less-than-ideal frame house, when slow times came to the small construction company I worked for. Six or seven hundred square feet was all the room my two young children, my wife and I had to live, play, and love in. It was enough… but alone time with God for me sometimes meant getting up early or maybe staying up late. Often I would go sit in our car to read or pray. In the winter that meant running the engine and turning the dome light on, but the experience was more cozy than it sounds. Coffee and quiet… not a bad blend. The summers were different though, and I had more options. Light came early and the warm weather meant I could be outside in comfort.
One warm day I decided I would go for a walk and asked God to talk with me. I was looking for truth and was open to however He wanted to teach me. So off I went with the prayer, “Use the things that you created, O God, to show me truth.” The pasture next door is where I went, it had gently rolling hills dotted with a few trees here and there, ideal I felt for a short hike. Not far from home I came to a tree in the meadow. Trees that grow in dense forest often grow up straight and tall with few low branches; but meadow trees don’t have to compete so much for sunlight, and will sometimes have branches close to the ground. This was a beautiful meadow tree with lower branches that I could, with a little effort reach. When I noticed this I had an impulse…. why not climb it! I must admit that it had been awhile; when I was young climbing trees was a source of thrills and accomplishment. Sometimes it felt like I was a mile high (which of course I wasn’t). When I pushed myself to climb near the top where the tree would sway back and forth and fear was real; I would pat myself on the back for daring so much. I guess I was looking for the limits of my reach. Those days were long past and my needs and desires seemed different then… but I guess maybe I still needed an adventure and still had a longing to see how high I could reach. So I climbed.
As I moved up the branches, my mind returned to an earlier time. I remembered climbing a Maple tree on the land Dad had bought when we moved from the city. It’s where Dad lives now and is where he put down roots. Then it was secluded, the only house down a gravel lane that would need repairing after every hard rain. I remember Dad’s voice following me up, giving me guidance, I can still remember his advice. He told me to be aware… he wasn’t telling me to fear, his voice was sure and relaxed. Look at the branches he instructed, trees have dead branches. Don’t trust your weight to them they may give way, living branches are the ones to hold to. And never, he said, trust to only one branch. Hold to more than one, was what he meant, one may give way, but with my weight distributed among several limbs, there was safety.
My ascent among the branches, caused me to see see other truths. I understood how Dad’s advice on climbing also applies to the principals we trust in for our safety… The truths that we hold on to on our journey of life. Truths like branches of a tree enable us climb higher, see further, and gain a different perspective on the world around us. We trust our well being to them. How we ultimately deal with life’s adversity, sorrow, and even how we deal with death is dependent on the truths that we hold. Where and how we inevitably conclude our life’s path is directly linked to what is true. Truth is the living branch that holds when we call upon it to carry us. Believing in the wrong thing is like dead wood in our hands… trust in it at your own peril. Because I know what I believe does matter; I put it to the test. If it is true, it comes from God. We can find His certification if we look hard enough. Simply said, is it what He teaches? Confirmation can be found either in the Holy scriptures, or in the discerning of what God approves by what He does. While most Christians understand the Bible to be a source of direction and guidance, some miss the other way of comprehending His will. Look closely at what He’s doing or has done. Even Jesus used what everyone could see God doing as support for His teaching. In Matthew the fifth chapter he said,
5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
He was saying God gives good things to everyone. The rain by the way was a good thing. The Israelite farmer, both good and bad, depended on the rains to nourish the crops on which he fed his family. What God was doing was to be our example. The lilies in the field… the birds in the heavens… the seasons.. God’s choice of the base things, the things that are despised… are some examples given in scripture of truth discerned by noticing God’s works. Test what you hold on to, if it’s from God hold to it… there’s life in that branch.
In the tree I also increased my safety by distributing my weight among several branches. A wise man will establish truth by several witnesses. The greater the need for safety… and the higher the cost of a failure, the more crucial it becomes to check our facts.
1 John 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Deception comes in many forms, and self-deception not being the least of these. We shouldn’t be quick to follow our first impulses. There are many needs and desires that motivate us and not all of them are clear even to ourselves. Truth brings witnesses because it’s God’s way. Any good juror waits until all the facts are in before passing judgment, and every wise Christian will do the same. The greater the number of branches of truth we grasp, the surer we become of our position. The heights of revelation can be intoxicating, but before encouraging others to follow let’s make sure our path, and establish our position.
It’s a long way down.