What kind of plant best represents you? One of my friends was given that question as a prayer prompt a long time ago. Plants are often used symbolically in the Bible, and she was challenged to ask God what kind of plant best characterized her. She prayed about the state of her soul and how she was living in relationship with her Creator. She was surprised by the image that implanted in her heart and mind that day. It was an unexpected picture that helped her understand more about where she had been and where she was headed.
I have thought about this question several times since I first heard it. The oddness of this meditation seems to have given it sticking power in the corridors of my heart.
A new image recently came into my eyes and embedded itself in my heart.
The tamarack tree.
Have you ever seen tamarack trees in the fall?
I saw an abundance of tamaracks over the weekend and could not stop taking pictures. Tamarack trees are stunning in the autumn. Their golden brown color immediately attracts my eyes. In part, because of the surprise in seeing their color. Because tamaracks are coniferous, yet, they are not evergreens. They have needles that change color in the cool of the fall and grow anew in the warmth of the spring.
Tamaracks are a seeming contradiction perfectly suited for their environment.
Tamaracks primarily grow in bogs and swamps, thriving in close proximity to water. They also grow in open spaces because of their need for a direct view of the sun. But they only grow in the north. They gain the strength from the water and the sunshine that helps them survive the harshness of winter.
I am reminded of verses in the Bible talk about how, when we trust in the Lord, we will be like trees planted near water. Jeremiah 17:8 also says our leaves will always stay green. With that image in mind, I have pictured myself as a big strong evergreen who can handle the harshness of life without dropping a needle. But I wonder if the key in this verse is not the description of the green, but the portrayal of the location. The green is symbolic of a tree that does not die or waste away, because it is set next to the source of life.
But now, here stands a tamarack. A tree planted near the water that does lose its green, but yet, does not lose its life.
Tamaracks do not use their energy in the cold season to maintain their emerald color on the outside, but to build their strength on the inside. Years ago, native people used the wood from tamaracks to make their snowshoes. They knew tamaracks had the ideal mix of strength and flexibility needed to hold their weight in balance over the cold wet snow.
This feels like faith to me. I am a tamarack tree.
There are seasons in which I have been stretched and beat against with cold harsh winds. And during those times, my faith has looked different. My needles fell and my energy focused on my core. It had to. But in the midst of those times, my location never changed. I am rooted next to the Living Water, with my branches pointed to the Light of the World. This doesn’t mean I am always green, but it does mean I am always filled with life. I need not fear when seasons change.
And I pray that as I have gone through springs and autumns, summers and winters in my faith, hardiness has built in my core. That I, like the tamarack, could provide strength and flexibility for others in their times of need.
I am a tamarack tree. What kind of plant would you use to describe your faith?