Beyond the Trees; Above the Tree Line…

“Beyond the Trees,” © Lynn Abbott Studios. Used with Permission.

© 2018 Lynn Abbott

My neighbors’ house sits on a grassy rise down the road apiece. Few trees occupy the lot. In fact, he tells me that she doesn’t like trees blocking the view of the house.

I shift my feet rather uncomfortably and glance at my home. Since moving in 10 years ago, my husband and I have planted close to one hundred trees.

Seems people are of two minds when it comes to trees. Some love the grassy, unadorned hillsides of Kentucky horse country; others, love the sound of autumn’s fluttering leaves on the Blue Ridge.

He tells me that she doesn’t like trees blocking the view of the house.

My love of trees sprouted during my parent’s summertime sojourns. I particularly remember camping in Montana when I was just five years old.  The high point of that trip remains a ride on the back of my dad’s Honda to the mountain grocery.

Clinging to my father, I marveled as he picked his way through the windy, tree-lined roads. The journey took my breath away.

Of course,  a five-year-old would never  be allowed to ride that way today. Too dangerous. But that is how, with the wind in my face and tall trees as my witness, I acquired a taste for adventure.  I have never forgotten that ride.

In light of that experience, however, I must acknowledge that my neighbor has a point:  trees actually do block grand vistas. Although camping in mountain forests puts me in range of mountain views,  the woods often block the panorama.

Forget that old proverb: “you can’t see the forest for the trees…”  That’s not even the half of it. Those leafy sentinels frequently make it impossible to enjoy creation’s grand and sweeping vistas.

In fact, in the forest, I cannot see far into the thick canopy or know what lies beyond the trees. And so, the woods simultaneously comfort and frighten.

Yeah, sometimes, I am Red Riding Hood… Or Frodo and his anxious companions lost in Bombadil’s woods.

Unfortunately for me, life frequently requires plodding through the woods when I’d much prefer dancing on the mountaintop.

Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of things to come from the back of my heavenly Father’s bike.  But mostly? I live below the tree line.

Sometimes, I am Red Riding Hood… Or Frodo and his anxious companions lost in Bombadil’s woods.

There, I do my daily shuffle.  Indeed, peering into the dim and dusty thicket,  I can only trace shadows of things to come. And I long to ride like the wind, back to the mountaintop. I’d even settle for a respite in a sunny cottage in a forest clearing.

Obviously, if it were possible, I’d choose to camp out on the mountain top.

Peter felt that way, too. He even suggested dwelling  on the mountaintop permanently.  In Matthew 17, after seeing Christ transfigured in glory, Peter offered to put up tents for Christ, Moses and Elijah.

Let’s just keep this mountain top experience going, he seemed to say.

And I can’t blame him.  After all, in the days prior, Jesus had spoken of his death. He had, in fact, begun the journey to Jerusalem where he would be crucified  Had I been in Peter’s position, I likely would have suggested staying put until the controversy over Christ settled a little.

After all, he, James and John caught a glimpse of the glorified Christ, the King of Kings, on that mountaintop. After that panorama above the world’s treeline, who would wish to return to the valley floor?  Who would choose to enter the darkness found among the Gethsemane groves?

Only Jesus.

Only Jesus, Incarnate God, would choose to leave the glory of heaven on a mission to save those who disregarded Him (Philippians 2:5-11) .

Only Jesus would put aside that glory in order serve as our substitute on a criminal’s cross… so that we might be justified and our sinful rebellion forgiven  by God .

Note the words of God the Father: “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.  Listen to Him!” (Matthew 17:5).

Abba used Christ’s walk through dark woods to orchestrate a brilliant hope and future for all who accept His extravagant and self-sacrificing grace.

Christ’s Transfiguration demonstrates that both Moses, who had delivered the law, and Elijah, who represented the Prophets, were honored by Christ. All of the law and prophets pointed to Him (Matthew 5:17).

Yet, His work would surpass theirs (Romans 8:1-4).   And while Christ’s Transfiguration pointed to the coming Kingdom of God,  He had yet to make the appointed journey by way of a cross, carved from a tree and placed on a hill called Golgotha (Hebrews 10:1-10).

Yes, the Via Dolorosa made for us the way to the mountaintop.  Christ removed the deadly undergrowth so that He might ultimately carry you and me to His home above the tree line.

And He invites us to follow Him.  He is “The Way,” (John 14:6)

The Via Dolorosa made for us the way to the mountaintop.

True, the trip presents extraordinary challenges.  Taking up one’s cross is not for the faint of heart, (Luke 9:23; Philippians 3:7-11).

As Robert Frost once noted, the woods are “dark and deep…” and there are miles to go before we sleep.

So we drag our feet through autumn leaves–our sight limited by the trees that crowd our path–the day-to-day of our existence.

And all the while, we long for something more…

Yet, even in the woods, Grace dances like dappled light. Abba sends glimmers of things to come. And with these moments of hope and joy, He reminds us of our brilliant future though we stumble through the long, woodland hike, (Psalm 3:3).

Truly.

Along the way, He leads us to clearings.  We cross a bridge, or pull into a turn-out. The look out over the valley’s expanse gives us a taste of the “even better things to come…”

Of course, when I focus on the dark, seemingly impenetrable forest that lies some distance ahead, fear overtakes me.

I’m definitely thankful that Abba hasn’t asked me to forge my own way. Yup, He’s already done the hard work. My mission is to simply follow Him.

He simply asks you and me to trust the dappled light of His love.  For this reason, we step from glimmer to glimmer clinging to Abba and his promises, (Isaiah 40:29-31).

My mission is to simply follow Him.

And so, I guess my neighbor has a point. The view is lovely from that rise above the trees.

I’ll give her that.

But my life has more frequently resembled a wild ride through the trees and up that narrow mountain pass.

And so it is.  The One spoken of by Moses and the Prophets–the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace–whispers, “This is the way; walk in it,”(Isaiah 30:21).

That’s right. Clinging to our Heavenly Father, we will one day reach His home  beyond the forest and above the treeline…

with its stunning mountaintop views.

“… let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus,” ~Hebrews 12:1,2

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