All nature tells the story of who we are. Through the trees and the spirits, we receive wisdom and guidance to step forth with faith. Here, a giant American Sycamore and a group of sprites share their stories.
Visiting with nature
It's a glorious summer morning, unseasonably cool with a soft breeze. The ground is dry, although recent rains have left things quite lush, and the smell of the rains is still faintly perceptible. I've headed out this morning back to the local park to sit under a tree and share its story.
Recently, I've also spoken with the burr oak in our front yard, a beautiful weeping willow while on vacation in northern Iowa, and a gorgeous European horse chestnut. All have such deep wisdom to share, reminding us who we truly are, and encouraging us to be more than do.
As humans, we've long been gathering wisdom from trees. A quick search on Amazon brings up an entire page of over 10 books with "wisdom of trees" in the title. This post, with beautiful photos of trees, shares how Walt Whitman found healing from a stroke in nature, especially the forest.
Trees play a prominent role in the Bible, too. There's the two most well-know Biblical trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Trees are ground, stable, and serene. They teach us that things take time. That we need a solid foundation to grow big and strong. They teach us to be flexible amid the storms. And they teach us that we need friends.
An American Sycamore speaks
Having found the tree that was calling me, I approach a giant American Sycamore. The leaves look similar to maples, although much bigger. The bark falls off as the tree matures, so the upper limbs are a pretty, smooth white color. Eventually, as the tree continues to get older, the white becomes a scaly black/dark brown. These trees have a huge diameter, up to 15 feet.
I sit under the tree, noticing all of the small pieces of curved bark spread out on the lawn around me. I close my eyes, leaning against the tree, breathing, feeling the heaviness and groundedness of the large trunk. I say a silent prayer and am blessed to receive this message:
Be not fearful of who you are and what you were made to be. We were all made to be something different from what we originally were. We were all made to be more than what we were. Do not let the process scare you. It is normal and natural for all beings.
Enjoy and allow.
You creator gives you everything you need, even more than you can think of. It is always there for you, even in the diseases and pests that may come. Those things come to all.
Do not force.
Find joy in what is.
Lean into it, explore it, see the gift that it is for you. What can your disease tell you? Explore with curiosity.
The Sycamore shared things I've been working on for quite some time - allowing and trusting. Trust requires letting go, accepting something different than what we might see or believe or want for ourselves. I am reminded that God already knows what I need (see Matthew 6:31-32). And why wouldn't he know what we need? He created us!
Growth and expansion can feel scary because we're stepping into the dark. Our human brains want us to be safe, and anything new and different is not seen as safe. It's normal to feel fear as we grow and change. However, we can choose to act in spite of the fear. This is faith.
A sprite comes to visit
I'm still pondering what the tree shared, when I hear another voice. This voice is smaller, tiny, and higher pitched. It says, "Thank you for meeting with me today. I am excited to share. Will you receive?"
"Who are you?" I ask.
"I am the sprite. We are not very different from fairies, although we are often put into a bad light. But we are really just misunderstood. I am not here to cause harm, but to explore what may be."
I've encountered sprites before. Sprites are small or elusive supernatural beings from European folklore. They are also through to generally live near water. Of the same class as a fairy. (See Wikipedia)
Sometimes they are not seen in a good light because they can be practical jokesters, which isn't usually appreciated.
I reply, "I desire no harm and am also here to learn and explore."
Needing a change of position, I lay on my back and the sprite jumps onto my belly. "You will listen to me!" it says emphatically.
"Yes, I will, but we will talk in a nice manner to each other," I say. The sprite agrees.
"Don't you normally live near water?"
"Yes, we do."
"I realize there is a pond, but it seems far away, given your size."
"We have our ways of getting around."
I become aware of a group of sprites to my right, peeking out from behind the sycamore tree. I assume that this sprite with whom I am talking is their leader, but it tells me it is not. It is the one to talk with me. The way it says this makes me curious. "Oh. How does your group work then?"
The sprite explains, "We each have different skills. Making homes, drawing...each sprite does the work that is required when it is needed. When that work is needed, that sprite leads."
"That sounds wonderful. How do you know what gifts you each have?"
"When we are fairly young, we are tested for each gift. It may start out small, but we know how to develop each one."
"That sounds like a wonderful system."
"Don't all groups work that way?"
"No," I chuckle. "Wait...you're the one who talks with humans, and you haven't realized that other societies live in different ways?"
Ignoring my comment, it simply asks, "How do you live?"
Well...(I do my best to explain as simply as possible how our system works)..."we have a system of education that all go through, but it is very limited in what is taught. And each person gets to decide for themselves what they want to do. But there are many factors that affect that decision, and it's not so easy. We provide for each other primarily in small family units."
"That sounds very inefficient."
"It is. I like your system much better."
The sprite is very pleased with this. I feel my heart well up as he says, "you will forever be in a good position with us because you said that."
"Thank you," I reply.
"Okay, we're off!"
And just like that, they are gone.
A better way to live?
I've often thought about how our society lives. Like the sprite says, it strikes me as very inefficient. In North America, at least, we're very much loners, living in our small little families. Sure, we may integrate with our community, but we all have to do everything ourselves. Each family unit has to generate income, and take care of all of the daily tasks for living.
I am drawn to the idea of larger subunits, communities where multiple families live together, and people take turns doing the daily tasks to keep everything running. Doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, tending a garden, maintaining the homes, for example, could all be assigned on a rotating basis. Why should everyone in the neighborhood all own a lawn mower, a trimmer, garden tools, or whatever other tools we need, when we don't need to use them every day? Why not share more, in so many more ways than we do now?
It sounds like the sprites work together in community, each developing and using the gifts they naturally have, for the benefit of all.
In 1 Cor 12, Paul teaches that there are many spiritual gifts, with each person receiving different gifts, for the purpose of all members benefiting.
1 Cor 12:7 reads, "Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good."(NIV)
He also uses the analogy of the human body. We have different parts, but each part needs the other parts. So it is with the church, and so it should be in our societies and communities.
Use your gifts to bless and serve others, and let others use their gifts to bless and serve you.
What is the message for you?
What did the Spirit bring to your heart as you read these stories today? What is God teaching you about who you are, or about the work he has for you to do?
Main image credit to Prawny from Pixabay. Photo of sycamore tree by author.