Our neighbor John recently hired a local tree service to trim his beautiful Bradford pear trees. Actually, "trim" constitutes a major understatement. The trees ended up nearly a third shorter than their original height, with their broad and lush canopy lopped sadly (in my mind) away.
The supervisor of the tree crew parked his truck in front of our house. I spoke with him to obtain a quote on a stand of trees that border the southern edge of our property. Mostly popcorn trees, with a few scrub oaks mixed in, the trees have grown tall enough to offer a potential threat to both our property and that of our neighbors. While we talked, the supervisor and I smiled at the severe pruning executed on neighbor John's Bradfords. "They look pretty rough, don't they?" said the tree man, a bit ruefully. "But they'll come back and be fuller than ever in a year or so." I responded that it disappointed me we wouldn't see this year the beautiful fall color offered by the foliage of the trees in late November or early December. "Yes, that's why John wanted us to prune them back so far" said the supervisor. "He didn't want to have to rake those leaves!"
I was taken aback, thinking to myself, "John, where's the art in your soul, man?!" Surely a bit of raking is more than worth the sublime display we will now miss. Of course, the thought occurred to me that I wouldn't have been the one doing the raking had the the trees remained intact. Moreover, this reminded of my own stand of giants that now require removal, at significant cost. One could say that the art in my soul, as it were, provides the reason for our coming investment.
Fifteen years ago, the man who lived in the house next door knocked on my door. Roy owned a tree service. "Glen," he said, "the trees between your house and mine will be a problem some day. Why don't you let me take them down, saving you and me some possible damage." Looking back, I realize Roy's experienced wisdom and insight. At the time, however, the popcorn trees stood at a manageable height. More importantly, they glimmered beautifully in autumn with the reds, yellows, oranges, and other hues that only God can imagine and paint. I loved the trees and their display. "Roy, I appreciate that. But I really don't want to lose the trees and their beauty, so I think I'll pass on your offer. I don't recall Roy's response, but I'm sure he thought, "One or both of us is going to be sorry!"
Just one of us actually. Roy moved away not long after our discussion, and he passed away last year. I'm still here, the trees are twice the size they were fifteen years ago, and as Roy predicted, they constitute a problem. They've survived several hurricanes, including Katrina in 2005. However, they have now grown to such height and breadth that we cannot expect them to withstand coming winds, whether of gale force, or lesser breezes. They must come down. The tree service will take care of that, albeit at a price that Roy would not have charged fifteen years ago. Actually, he would have charged nothing at all. I can still hear his words. "Won't cost you a thing, Glen." Funny, the tree service man with whom I negotiated the other day didn't say that. :)
Neighbor John finds his art in the waves and the winds. He's a water guy, and I fully understand that, being myself a kayaker. I also love the art of the trees, however, and the question now occurs in my mind: has it been worth it, these fifteen years of beauty that will now soon pass into memory? I'll let you know in a few weeks when I write the check to the tree service. Actually, that's not true. I can answer the question right now. Yes, it's been worth it. Over the years, we've seen some glorious sights and scenes far more valuable than money. We'll enjoy one more autumnal display this year as the leaves even now begin the demise that offers so much beauty, and so much remembrance of the Artist who splashes on the trees His green in the spring, and most sublimely, His outrageously splendid fall palette in November. I cannot recall how many times I have gazed up into the canopies soon to depart, and then gazed beyond into the heavenlies with grateful praise - "Lord, You are so beautiful!" I will miss those scenes and those moments. Oh yes, the art of the trees has been worth the coming investment, and had Roy cut them down so long ago, it would have cost me something.
The experience of beauty requires sacrifice. "Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us" prayed the Psalmist (Psalm 90:17). The suffering and death of the Lord Jesus Christ would be required to fully answer the request. As the Spirit of Christ lives in us, the principle will be enacted over and over again. Art, as it were, is costly, particularly God's art wherein we discover His heart. I'm presently learning this truth a bit more, and again, I affirm it is and has been worth it. And it always will be.
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me… to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for heaviness, that they might be called the trees of righteousness."
(Psalm 61:1; 3)
Weekly Memory Verse
The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace."