He Shall Be Like a Tree
From the Christian Science Journal, April 1918, by Richard Deener
Standing in a great forest and looking up at the colossal giants of pine as they grow in the East, the spruce and hemlock of the North, the redwood of the Pacific slope, or the mahogany and rosewood and cedar of the far South, who has not felt inspired at the sight? Looking through the canopy of green boughs into the immensity of a sky most beautifully blue, walking through nature’s temple decorated in sunlight and shadow and gladdened by twittering nestling and mother bird’s loving call, who, looking and laughing in very joyousness, has not turned in memory to the sweet singer of Israel and his beautiful simile in the first psalm, wherein he compares the godly man to “a tree planted by the rivers of water”? Thus thinking, one is reminded of the aptness of the comparison and finds new reasons for gratitude to God and to the Discoverer of Christian Science for the way-marks of Truth contained in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” that enable us to see so much of beauty and freshness and helpfulness in the Bible, which to some of us formerly seemed so unattractive and unsatisfactory because not understood.
The lesson in the passage of Scripture referred to is only appreciated to the fullest through the recognition of the condition required to become the recipient of the blessings of growth and stability which the psalmist described as being “like a tree.” It is manifestly implied that an understanding of divine law, and love for that law and obedience thereto, are the absolute requirements antecedent to the benefits of “the law of the Lord.” As Mrs. Eddy tells us in “No and Yes” (p. 30), “God’s law is in three words, ‘I am All;’ and this perfect law is ever present to rebuke any claim of another law.” Some knowledge of that law, coupled with the loving desire to obey it, is the open secret of the happiness of Christian Scientists the world over. This was the sustaining ideal of Jesus; it constituted the potentiality of our Leader’s great discovery; it explains the unfaltering hope of Moses, the inspiration of Peter and Paul, the song of David, who with prophetic vision saw the hosts of those redeemed from false beliefs, the triumphant, the fruitful, the enduring, and with spiritual understanding exclaimed, “He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.”
In no way is this similarity more apparent than in the fact that storms help, rather than hinder, a tree in its perfect root development. As the tree is shaken in the wind even when young, the ground is loosened, the roots go deeper and grip the earth tighter; then even before its full growth is attained, it laughs, shaking its leaves in the face of the tempest, while glorying in the joy of overcoming. If there were no storms in the beginning of its growth, no tree could stand a gale even though it should seem to be fully developed.
The orchardists of the country have learned that continued irrigation causes the roots of the fruit tree to lie idly near the surface to receive the water so freely poured upon them, and when the time of fruitage comes the tree is apt to fall over by reason of its own heaviness and its lack of depth of root. Therefore, as a protection to the tree itself, the caretaker turns away the water in order that the roots may go deeper for moisture, because in seeking it they will find both nourishment and the anchorage so necessary for a fruitful tree. Was it not because tribulations drove him to God that Paul rejoiced in afflictions, in distresses, and in problems of many phases? Whether the attack of error is called tempest or drought, sickness or limitation, we are enabled through Christian Science to recognize the belief, whatever it may seem to call itself, as an opportunity to prove the law of God’s allness; and in that glad fruition faith is uplifted, trust is rooted in the understanding of good as the only power, and joyously we acknowledge that we shall “be like a tree.”
This tree of which the psalmist spoke was “planted by the rivers of water,” that is, was planted in deep, rich earth where its every requirement was met. Referring to the Glossary in Science and Health (p. 585) we find this definition: “Earth. A sphere; a type of eternity and immortality, which are likewise without beginning or end.” Man is rooted in the eternal law of Mind; in immortality, revealed in his coexistence with the Father. Planted in the fertile fields of Life, reaching out into Principle for his supply of good, with the recognition of the fact that good is to be found nowhere else, man takes deep root in eternal Life, instead of having a mortal and transient sense of life, and declares that “his delight is in the law of the Lord.”
Pruning is also essential to the symmetrical growth and fruit bearing qualities of a tree. We have stood by the pruner’ at his work and protested against the seemingly ruthless use of saw and shears on tree and vine. But no; we were told that the sunlight must reach every part of the tree and that all useless and withered branches must be cut off, that the vigor and productiveness of the tree itself demanded nothing less. Mere talk about the nature of the root into which the stock was grafted, or reference to the orchardist who set the trees and started them on their way to fruit bearing, will not help the tree; it must be pruned. How decisive and clear are these words of Paul: “And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.”
The giving out of scraps of unauthorized notes, the use of nondescript “prayers,” and the recommendation of books of doubtful or questionable origin, these are “children of disobedience”—withered branches which must be cut off “and cast into the fire.” Are we not honoring the truth as revealed to us through our dear Leader, and repeated to us through patient and loving teachers, only when that which they really did tell us is bearing fruit in our individual right living, in our individual expression of the one Mind? This reflection of divine Mind in individual consciousness is surely all there is to the great business of fruit bearing. And divine law, as revealed through the Manual of The Mother Church, is the pruning knife to human excesses in all directions. Under its action wrong thinking must eventually fall away, and he who is busiest expressing divine Love will soonest find freedom from cumbersome and unprofitable branches.
In the semitropical regions of Mexico and in portions of Central America there is a beautiful forest tree called by the natives “Al Suprema” meaning, “To the Supreme.” The branches of this tree grow closely together, are broad of leaf, and all point upward. Its height is superb, its shade is restful. In addition to its habit of growth and the height it attains, the heart of the tree is almost impervious to weather conditions, whether in the ground or out of it. Posts of this wood which were known to have been in the earth for half a century, on being taken up were found to be so sound that they could be used in building construction. The natives quaintly express the belief that “it does not know how to decay,” and the observation is frequently heard that the wood from this tree lasts for a hundred years or more and then turns to stone.
Do not our hearts “burn within us” as we think of the wondrous truth and beauty of the psalmist’s words? Man, rooted in immortal Truth, forever reaching up toward the supreme good, endures forever! Man, “rooted and grounded in love,” growing steadily in storm and in calm, bearing the fruit of Spirit, “shall be like a tree.”