I haven’t been going to church much this past month.
But I have been staring at trees.
As readers of this blog know, I am a huge fan of Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan Friar, and runs the Center for Action and Contemplation in Albuquerque, NM. He said something recently that blew my mind. He said, “Nature was the first Bible.”
At first I was like- what.edu? But the more he explained, the more it made sense. His theory is that the Big Bang was the first incarnation of God, and that happened 13.7 billion years ago. The Bible is, at most, several thousand years old. That’s a lot of time in between. Was God not revealing itself that whole time? Was God just sipping Cappuccinos, waiting for the Roman Catholics to arrive?
(Side bar- Roman Catholic is a complete oxymoron. Catholic means universal. Roman means Roman. So which is it?)
(Side side bar- I’m a Catholic so I can say that.)
(Side side side bar- But if Catholic means universal, that means everybody. So even me saying, “I’m a Catholic” is drawing lines and demarcations and that is the opposite of universal. That’s it. I’m starting drinking again.)
(Side side side side bar- I’m not starting drinking again.)
So if God has been communicating for 13.7 billion years, and the Bible has only been around for the past few thousand, then it has been communicating through nature. Through what it created. That was Fr. Rohr's point. I liked that idea.
Ergo, I’ve been staring at trees.
They’ve been teaching me a lot. First of all, we only see what is above ground. We aren’t privy to the roots working their way deep in the soil. It’s the same with people. We only see what’s on the surface, but everyone has roots and reasons stretching out across time and space. Something is always happening underneath. My job is to be aware of it.
Also, trees are crooked. They never seem to grow in a straight line. There are curves and dips and branches. It adapts in whatever way it needs. And the curves are what makes the trees interesting. Can you imagine if trees were just perfectly straight? We’d think they were planted by Nazis.
Finally, trees are always reaching towards the light. No matter what. Spring, summer, winter, fall. That’s why they curve and dip and branch. And the time I can best them reaching is in the winter. When their leaves are dead. When they’re the most exposed. Sure I love the blossoms. Sure I love the shade of the leaves. But when everything is stripped away, that is when I see them most clearly.
Surely there’s a divine lesson in there somewhere.