The wind whipped through the rugged trees and rocky terrain, yet the sun glistened as if to kiss the powder blue Colorado Rocky Mountain sky. I love these kinds of days, perfect for hiking in God’s beautiful country. Here (about 11,000 feet above sea level) I belonged. The rat race of my life below seemed distant, a mere image fading further away with every gust. I could be myself, let go, relax, and reflect.
I’ll never forget the year when my life unravelled before my very eyes. The tapestry so carefully sewn together through time seemed to disintegrate and explode. I found myself without things I thought were important and losing ones that really were. Hiking was therapy for me—a chance to talk with God. On this particular day, He brought me to a special area. As usual, my small mind thought He was blessing me with the chance to admire the scenery. Oh, it was beautiful all right, but God had much more in mind for me.
High above civilization, I found these trees. They were the weirdest things I had ever seen in my life! I remember my brother explaining how they were one of the oldest species of trees in existence. They made their home a place where most trees would not dare, where the conditions were harsh and the weather extreme. At first glance, they seemed to be nothing more than a twisted tree, mangled to the point of deformity. I’m sure many people just pass them by without a glance as they use their binoculars to view the breathtaking scenery around. I might have overlooked them too, but on this particular day, I saw their true beauty.
“Be like a Bristlecone pine tree,” God’s spirit moved in my heart. I looked closer at these trees, and I realized for the first time that they were not twisted because God had made a mistake in their creation. God doesn’t make mistakes. No, they were uniquely designed because they were flexible. Wind is inevitable. We can’t avoid it in our lives—it will come. Sometimes it is a slight, warming breeze that soothes the soul while other times it whips vigorously, howling at forceful speeds. It can knock down even the biggest, widest tree in a flash, as if it were merely a twig in the ground. But instead of fighting the wind, the Bristlecone pine tree bends and moves with the wind. Each tree, therefore, has a unique shape formed and determined by the winds it sustained.
Things are not always what they appear to be. I sat and reflected on this statement. How many times have I assumed a tree, a cactus, or anything was ugly just because it didn’t look like everything else, even though its outward character showed its ability to persevere through life’s challenges? Was I making the same judgment of people whose appearance or lifestyle was different than mine?
“Have faith like a Bristlecone pine tree,” my spirit heard the whisper. Flexibility alone wasn’t the answer. Another quality that has allowed these trees to live exceptionally long lives is that they have one of the deepest root systems. Instead of settling for the quick, easy surface water, the Bristlecone pine tree goes deep down into the core of the ground. When the droughts come, as they always do, it is prepared. These trees need not worry because they don’t rely on the water that comes and goes daily.
How deep were my roots? Deep enough to withstand a drought? Well, I was in one. The ground was cracking, and the plant life was drying up and blowing away. Yet, I was still standing. Sure, I didn’t look the same as before. Maybe to some, I appeared a bit mangled. But as I stood there admiring these gorgeous creations of God, I was filled with a heart of thankfulness and gratitude. What a lesson these trees are for us all.
When I share my admiration for Bristlecone pines with others, some exclaim, “No way! I’d rather be a big, tall, huge Redwood or Sequoia tree so everyone can see me and know I stand for God.” As for me, I proudly consider myself a Bristlecone pine tree—uniquely designed and deeply rooted. When people see me, they won’t just say, “Wow, what a big tree.” No, I hope they will look a little closer to learn what and who has made me.