“If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”
Once upon a time there was a boy. He was a very normal boy who loved to do normal things like climb trees, ride his bicycle, and eat ice cream.
One summer day the boy came upon a talking tree not far from his home.
The tree spoke up as the boy passed. “Would you like to see my magic trick?”
The boy replied, “Sure!”
“Ok, just watch!” The boy stood and waited but nothing happened.
“I’m waiting…” sighed the boy. But the tree was silent. So the boy left.
In the autumn the boy returned to the talking tree that was now dwindling. The tree recognized the boy. “I thought you had left! Do you still want to see my magic trick?”
The boy was excited. “Yes, please!”
“Alright,” said the tree, “just watch.” The boy stood and waited but nothing happened. So he left.
The boy returned in the winter and the tree looked ugly. The boy wondered if it was dead. The tree said nothing.
In the spring the boy returned to the tree had been and he noticed it had new leaves and buds on the tree. Still the tree said nothing so the boy left.
When the boy returned in the summer he found the giant, green tree flourishing. Suddenly the tree spoke. “It’s you again! So what did you think of my magic trick?”
The boy replied, “I didn’t see it.”
So the tree graciously offered, “Would you like me to show you again?” The boy eagerly nodded. “Ok, just watch!” said the tree.
The boy waited and watched but nothing happened. Finally the boy said to himself, “This is silly. I’m too old for magic anyway.” So he left and did not return.
As the boy grew older he changed. He saw many trees but they were all the same. And none of them could talk or do magic tricks.
Then one day the boy moved away and became a man. He became less interested in nature and certainly never thought about magic anymore. He was very busy working and taking care of things.
Over the years he became very successful and had lots and lots of things. But despite his success he felt empty.
So the man worked harder and became busier and had many things to take care of. He became the most successful man at work, but he still felt empty and sad.
At the age of fifty the man took all of his many things and moved back to the town where he had grown up. It was winter.
One day when he was home he went for a walk. He saw the old tree that had spoken to him many years ago. It looked ugly and bare. He thought about the mean joke that the tree had played on him when he was a boy.
“Magic trick!” he sneered. His eyes swelled with tears and he kicked the fat, stale trunk of the tree.
Months passed and the man was lonely. Almost daily he took walks past the talking tree. As spring blossomed he noticed the ugly, bare tree slowly budding and gaining color. Watching the tree change made him happy.
When summer came the tree had become vibrant and green and the man walked past the tree every day noticing its life and color. Somehow the tree’s life inspired the man.
On a warm August evening the man sat near the tree and watched the sun set. Suddenly the tree spoke. “Excuse me, man, would you like to see my magic trick?”
Feelings of betrayal flooded the man’s memory and he immediately responded to the tree.
“What magic trick! You don’t have any magic! You tried this one on me thirty years ago!”
The tree then recognized the boy from long ago.
“It’s you!” exclaimed the tree.
“Yeah it’s me, and you already got me with your stupid magic joke. So, no, I don’t want to see your magic trick!”
The tree conceded, “Alright. I can’t make you see my magic trick.”
There was a long, anxious pause.
Finally the man broke the silence. “I don’t care about your stupid magic trick. But… There is something I'd like to know. I would like to know how you change… how you go from this big, beautiful tree in summer to an ugly, bare tree in the winter and then back to a big, beautiful tree again.”
It was quiet and the man had his back to the tree.
When he turned around the tree was smiling.
“You saw my magic trick!” it shouted. “My magic trick is changing! My trick is surviving the winter and re-blossoming in the spring and flourishing in the summer.”
The baffled man inquired, “If you can do magic then why don’t you just stay like this the whole year round?”
“Oh I see,” said the tree, “You think that if I have the magic to change then I should use the magic to remain this way the entire year.”
“Yes. You certainly look the best in summer.”
“Well,” the tree began, “It doesn’t work that way. I can’t stay like this on my own. I don’t have the magic.”
“What? But you said you – Then who does?” the man squawked.
“The wind.” answered the tree.
“Yes. The wind. The magic is in the wind. You see, in the autumn I give my leaves away. If I try to keep them I will die. So I surrender my leaves to the wind and the wind gives them away to the ground and the birds and to anyone who wants them.”
“But don’t you get cold in the winter?” he wondered.
“Yes. The winters are extremely hard and I suffer much. But if I kept my leaves in the winter I would surely die. Surrendering my leaves to the wind is my only chance to live.”
“Don’t you get scared?” the man inquired.
“Yes, but I trust the magic in the wind.”
There was another pause and the man paced back and forth a few times before asking, “So how do you change from winter to spring to summer if you give away all your leaves?”
“After I have suffered the winter,” the tree explained, “the wind brings new seeds in the spring and I begin to grow.”
“Where do the new seeds come from?”
“I don’t know. It’s magic. The wind brings new life.”
The man slowly sat down and thought about what the tree had said. There was a long silence.
Then the sound of a light, August breeze was born in the distance. Slowly the breeze swelled into a significant gale and swept passed the man from behind. At that moment the tree let go of some of its leaves and they floated through the air passed the man. The man noticed the leaves gliding gently passed him in possession of the wind.
Without warning the man’s hat blew away and joined the leaves in their unknown trajectory. At first the man’s instinct was to chase his hat. But after a few hopeless steps he stopped. Turning to the tree he whined, “That was my hat!”
The tree replied, “Those were my leaves.”
The man meandered home and grumbled to a non-existent companion. He hated not having his hat.
In the distance a woman was walking toward the man. As she approached, the man noticed something in her hands.
“My hat!” he shouted. He rushed toward the woman. The man ambitiously returned the hat to his bald head. He was so preoccupied with his hat that he had not yet made eye contact with the woman. When he did he was stunned. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“I was out walking and the wind blew this hat right to me. So, I decided to go looking for its mate.”
“Oh,” said the man, “thank you. My name is Robert.”
“I’m Caroline, pleased to meet you.” she replied. The two began to talk and they found many things agreeable. They walked along together and the man enjoyed her company.
While they walked the man thought about what the tree had said. About the magic in the wind. And about the new seeds in the spring.
Without warning a gust of wind stole the man’s hat and carried it away again. The woman began to run after it but the man quickly cried “Stop! It’s OK.”
He turned around and stared at the tree in the distance. A gentle breeze swayed the tree and it stared majestically back at the man. He remembered the tree’s words: “I surrender my leaves to the wind. If I keep them I’ll die. It’s my only chance to live.”
A smile came over the man’s weathered face and he turned to the woman. Gently he took her hand and said, “Want to see a magic trick?”
As the man and woman approached the magnificent tree the man looked up into the face of its beautiful presence and began, “Hello, old friend. This is Caroline…”
The trees of the Lord are watered abundantly…
- Psalm 104:16