“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”Nelson Henderson
I’ve always loved this quote. I have a deep affection for trees even if I don’t go around sniffing them like my friend, Heather. Hoisting my hammock among the trees and resting in the cool, comfort of the shade is one of my favorite activities on a warm summer’s day. Give me some chocolate ice cream while I sway in the wind and I’m in heaven.
Maybe my tree-love is why I love this quote, but I think it may also be the hope that things we do now can make a difference for someone else long after we’re gone. It is the beauty and power of a life well-lived – a life on whose shoulders others stand, a life that plants trees under whose shade we will never sit. What better way to spend your one wild and precious life?
But trees grow painfully slow. We need to begin planting some seeds now.
We underestimate seeds. They seem so tiny and powerless. It is hard to connect the dots between a small acorn and a mighty oak. Yet, God declares the power of faith the size of a mustard seed. God is in the business of doing BIG things with small offerings. The following video is a timelapse of the 8 months it took an acorn to transform into a very small sapling. It will take another 20-30 years for this seed to reach full maturity and begin producing acorns.
The life-giving seeds we are called to plant are mostly small.
- the gift of conversation and presence, letting someone know you really see them, you’re glad they exist, and you care about what they have to say.
- cheering someone on – using your social media to lift someone up or brag on someone who wouldn’t do it themselves rather than a Facebook shrine to ourselves. Send an encouraging note or text “just because”.
- giving the underdog or the underpaid or the underresourced a seat at the table as equal, not charity. We are all “beggars at the door of God’s mercy” wrote
authorand Ragamuffin, Brennan Manning.
- a teacher believing in a student when no one else has.
- recycling and creation care so that one day there may still be literal trees with literal shade for our grandchildren.
Every day we have opportunities to plant seeds – to be people dedicated to creating life rather than hoarding life. When Jesus is giving his charge to his followers before sending them out, he tells them we will find our lives when we stop living for ourselves.
If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.Matthew 10:39 (MSG)
And just a few verses later, Jesus says this.
This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.Matthew 10:42 (MSG)
We don’t have to wait until we’re dead to start throwing a little shade. Out of love for God and our neighbor, start with a cup of water. Plant a seed. Then, see what God grows.