“But now ask the beasts to teach you,
And the birds of the air to tell you;
Or the reptiles on earth to instruct you,
And the fish of the sea to inform you.
Which of all these does not know
That the hand of God has done this?
In this hand is the soul of every living thing,
And the life of all humankind.”
I live in a treehouse. No, really, I do! It’s actually a third-floor apartment with a balcony overlooking a nice courtyard, but with a beautiful tree right there. I can touch the branches from my chair on my balcony, and, since I’m three floors up, it’s like living in the middle of a tree! I didn’t see the inside of the apartment until I moved in. From across the courtyard, the day my daughter and I went apartment hunting, she said, “I think Apartment 1134 is the one with the balcony you can barely see behind the huge tree.” That’s the one I wanted. I didn’t see the apartment, but I saw the tree, and that’s all I needed to see.
My tree, as it is now known, has shown me the greatest lesson of God. Franciscan spirituality (the spirituality of St. Francis of Assisi) teaches that creation is God’s very first Incarnation in the world…the first bible, if you will. God’s word spoken first, billions of years ago, however you believe that it happened. The lesson is that of life, death and resurrection. I can see it so vividly in my tree. I’ve seen several squirrel nests being so carefully built, the squirrels carrying endless mouthfuls of twigs, leaves and nesting material up to the nest. They work so hard on the nest, until I hear tiny squeaks coming from within. New life. And then off they all go, leaving the nest to deconstruct and blow away in the breeze. Death. Suddenly, before you know it, here comes another squirrel, obviously hearing it’s a good neighborhood, and another nest is constructed, twig by twig. Resurrection.
The lesson of God is that all creation is loved into being by the Creator. Created, loved and sustained by God. And all creation does its thing and then moves on, making space for the next generation. All of life is so temporary, but so vividly loved and adorned. It’s all such a miracle!
During this time of difficulty, it has helped me to realize that God, who cares for every hair on the little squirrel’s head, cares for us too. God holds us and sustains us through these difficult days, amid the fear and hardship so many are facing. And it is springtime, the time of new birth, new baby squirrels, new flower and fawn. God is bringing that lesson home for us in a lovely way. Today, as I write this, it is pouring rain. I have to remind myself that it, too, is a gift from the Creator, even though it is not my favorite element of spring. But the rain nourishes the plants that will yield fruit for us later. This time of pandemic may have hidden gifts for us, too; hidden fruits we may find later or even now, if we can look with eyes to see. It helps me, whenever I feel down or that the bad news will never end, to go back to the simple lessons of the tree. To realize the leaves I see now were just buds two months ago. To imagine a new squirrel nest is in the blueprint phase, and to appreciate that all this rain will yield good fruit for us in due season. All this is from the hand of our Creator, writing this first bible, which can teach us as much as the second.
Let us pray...
God of all Creation,
Help us to learn these lessons well, from the beasts, the fish, reptiles and foliage. Your gifts to us are all around us, even though they may be hard for us to see at times. Give us your eyes, heart and compassion for all you have created. Please and thank you! Amen…
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Thanks for your devotional today, Heidi. I find your words to be a rather profound theological reflection. I appreciate your reference to Creation as “the first Bible” and your reminder of the spirituality of St. Francis. You challenge me to think about “hidden gifts” during this time of the pandemic. I hope you are in the regular rotation for these daily devotionals.
Thank you for this, Heidi – the image (and reality!) of both the gift and fragility of life — and the promise of being held by God.