I have cousins in California, and when I was small my family used to make the Griswold-ian drive across country to visit them. I can only imagine now, looking back as a dad, what that was like for my parents driving 2,500 miles with three kids in the back seat of a car, without interstate highways. (“Are we there yet?”)
One of my vivid memories of our vacation one summer was a trip to the Sierra Nevada mountain range where we visited the Redwood National Park. It was there that we saw some of God’s most awesome creations: giant sequoia and redwood trees, some of which were up to 3,000 years old and stood more than 300 feet in the air. They looked like skyscrapers, including one they had carved a tunnel through so you could drive through it in your car.
I still have some pictures–black and white, of course–of me and my sisters standing next to the huge trees, and our car driving through the tunnel in the tree. I also remember seeing one of those trees that had been cut down, and the cross-section of the trunk stood more than 25 feet in height. It was amazing then for a little boy’s eyes, and it still is for this not-so-little boy.
The park ranger told us how the rings of the tree tell the story of that tree’s life, year by year. We’ve all heard how that works, in elementary science class, but it’s pretty fascinating when you’re looking a tree that is a couple of millennia old. There are thin rings, revealing years when the tree hardly grew at all because of a drought. There are thick rings, reflecting healthy years, when the tree grew by leaps and bounds. There are signs where the tree was struck by lightning, and signs from when it faced years of blight and disease.
Dr. David Seamands, in his bookHealing for Damaged Emotions, uses the rings of those great trees as pictures of our own lives. “Beneath the protective bark,” he wrote, “the concealing, protective mask, are the recorded rings of our lives.”
If we were able to pull back the bark and look at our own lives like the cross-section of one of those big trees, we would see plenty of revealing signs, from deep scars to evidence of healthy growth, that make up our past. Some of those rings would represent wrongs done to us, and some the result of mistakes we made where we had to reap what we sowed. Others would show years of growth because of good choices we made, and because we “remained in the vine” (John 15:1-8) in our relationship with our gracious God.
Whatever the case, and whatever our “rings” may look like, God knows where we’ve been, and He’s faithfully seen us through the good times and bad. He will use every one of those years–those we cherish and those we would choose to forget–to grow us up into what, and who, He wants us to be. He is, truly, the Lord of the rings of our lives.
May He bless each of you abundantly this week, that you may be “rooted” in Him. I’m praying for you and I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.