The Leafless One

by Rich Bregitzer
(St. Louis, MO)

Psalm 78:1-5, 6-7


My people, listen to my teaching. Pay attention to what I say.
 2 I will open my mouth and tell stories. I will speak about things that were hidden.
      They happened a long time ago.
 3 We have heard about them and we know them. Our people who lived before us have told us about them.
 4 We won't hide them from our children. We will tell them to those who live after us.
 We will tell them about what the Lord has done that is worthy of praise. We will talk about his power and the wonderful things he has done.

 6 So that those born later would know his laws. Even their children yet to come would know them. And they in turn would tell their children.
 7 Then they would put their trust in God. They would not forget what he had done. They would obey his commands.

It is not necessarily the right time of year for my story, but it bears repeating and it is good to be reminded, frequently, of what happened. So, allow me to revisit that time and to share with you though the season has past.

Let me tell you a little about myself. I have roots here. Yes, I have been around a long, long time and have seen much. I have been here in times of drought and in times of monsoon. I have endured the heat and the cold and I had enjoyed my time right up until the day I left.

I wish you could have seen me then. What I became...well we'll get to that, but then I was something to behold. A vibrant, giant, with a thick, lush growth and I had a way with all things living.

Let me ask you a question: How are you with animals? Birds have perched upon my limbs and made me their home. Great swarms of bees have made their hives in my heights and sang to me their strange music.

Great nocturnal cats have lounged in the shade I provided and have camouflaged themselves behind my dense leaves as they scouted for prey. I do believe the animals adored me.

I was strong and upright to the end.

I loved the sun and the storm, the dazzling blue of the sky and the dangerous look it had before the storm. I reached ever upward for the rays of that far off golden sphere and I drank deeply of the rain, my roots reaching deep into the soil as I surged with growth.

I was strong and upright to the end.

Then the great city came and chased the big cats away, but the little ones who dwelt in the city would come to me.

Yes, the children played in my arms. I supported them. They played in the shadow of my foliage and ran for shelter beneath my canopy when it would rain.

I watched the children grow and I was strong and upright to the end.

Eventually the children of these children played in my arms. I supported them as well. I offered my foliage to them for shade and my canopy as shelter against the rains.

I was climbed on and played beneath. I would sway in the breeze and dance for all who may watch and then they came for me.

I had seen it happen before. My brothers and sisters would be harvested and be made into something other than what they were. Some rejoiced to be made into something useful.

Their spirits would cry out to us from the table they had become or the chair that had been fashioned. Oh..there was joy in being something useful if one could not be a tree.

So, I was felled by ax and saw and dragged from my home. I was stripped of my beautiful bark and my trunk was sawn and planed until I was made into a most impressive beam.

My more majestic limbs became beams as well. What I came to call little brothers. They were strong, but not nearly my size. I was separated from those that had been a part of me for so long. I was placed along with my brothers and sisters of equal size. My former limbs placed elsewhere.

And I lay in a stack of such lumber until the day of the noise. How I wish I could tell you exactly what the commotion was all about. But see, I do not speak the language of the leafless ones. I do not comprehend all their customs, but I do know the tone.

I recognize that anger sounds like hundreds of axes and saws beating against a great forest. I know that joy sounds like the song of the rivers babbling over the rocks.

And these leafless ones sounded like doom come to the forest. They were angry. No. They were enraged. There was a great commotion and then they came for me.
Imagine my shock. Imagine my fear. What had I done? Had I not provided for the need of their little ones. Had they not played in my arms, had they not found joy beneath my many limbs.

I was lifted up, carried a short distance and roughly dropped upon the back of one of the leafless ones who struggled beneath my weight. Had I limbs like his I would have pushed myself up from off of him to rescue him from my weight, but all I could do was lay there.

Around me I saw the angry grown faces that once belonged to the very children that had laughed and made merry in my branches...oh how frightening they seemed now and they grimaced and yelled at this leafless one.

Where I touched his back I could feel the moisture from the sap that seeped from him. He was covered in it; a thick red sap. He half carried me, half dragged me as his life source freely flowed. Great gasps for air came from him as he struggled...it sounded like a sickly wind carrying the end of all things.

We ascended a slight hill up and up we went until he collapsed beneath me. I was, I admit, surprised that he could carry me this far. I had not been sanded down and great splinters pierced his flesh. Many, who watched, seemed to be angry, some seemed sad as the rain fell from their eyes.

A darker skinned, leafless one took my weight upon his back and I was carried onward and upward as the battered and bruised leafless one was made to walk on.
We came to the top of the most horrific of places. Here and there were many of my brothers who had been made into timbers; just as I had been. Their spirits cried out to me that they were not created for such use. Injustice! Murder! Wrongdoing! They cried.

But I could not sing their song. I was not overjoyed to be at this place and yet I felt the Great Spirit speaking to me; telling me that I was grown to be such a tree; that this was my purpose.

The beaten leafless one was laid on top of me. A smaller beam was made to fit close to the top of what I had become. Spikes and ropes secured me and this little brother together forming a sort of cross.

Then the leafless one was stretched out and his limbs…his less than woody, so much softer limbs were pierced with spikes and he made a terrible noise. The limbs he walked upon were also pierced and the sap flowed.

The thorny growth of a distant cousin was fashioned into a halo and pressed upon this agonizing creature’s head where new beads of sap began to flow and then I and this leafless nearly lifeless one were raised up into the sky. I was made to stand up and to support his weight.

Other trees, made into timbers, around me bore similar burdens. Some withered in agony, some had ceased moving some time ago. All were silhouetted against the sun. None mourned for them, but my brothers...Vengeance! Fear! Sin! They cried.

This seemed wrong, it felt wrong…it was utterly horrifying and yet I felt as though this simply had to be.

I shut my mind and recalled the children playing in my arms. Me supporting them and dancing in the breeze for them. I ached then for innocence and for all the leafless ones to stop treating each other in such a manner.

Truthfully I asked the Great Spirit to take this leafless burden from me. This one who did not seem deserving of such a fate. Take him from me, Great Spirit, return me to my roots, and turn back the sun to that time before these creatures built their city.

I long for the innocence of nature. I long for the natural order of things. Three times I sought deliverance from the burden of having to behold the tragedy that was before me.

I was strong and upright to the end.

It was hours that we stayed there. Eventually this last of the leafless ones who I would ever support spoke something and then he ceased to move. The sun beat upon us and then someone with a long and sharp stick approached.

I beheld the menacing looking twig. Small compared to what had been my immense branches.

This leafless creature, unbound and cowardly took this stick and rammed it into the side of the one who I was holding and more of the sap and something like water flowed from his side. The brutality... and I could not flee.

I was strong and upright to the end.

I have been immortalized by those who claim to cling to me and by those that make things recalling the time when a cross of wood supported this leafless one; who I learned was no ordinary creature.

I was a tree made into something quite different by the race of man. Jesus was the Son of God made to be the sacrifice for sins by His father.

Many stop at the story of Jesus’ death and are horrified by what I may represent, I have been called an instrument of torture, but I was just a tree, another of the Creator's creatures who he had a plan and a purpose for.

I learned through my brothers and sisters in the language of the trees that this was not the end of the story. I have heard that he came back, that he lived and that he returned to His father.

Will you take up your cross to follow him? Will you be strong and upright in the end?

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