When I was a child, my parents and other adults told us kids to not peel the bark off of trees. They said it would hurt the tree. I didn't quite understand it. I could peel whole sections off and the tree would still be standing tall and strong. They tried to explain that the bark of the tree was like our skin on us. How painful would it be if someone peeled my skin off of me? Well, pretty painful. But I knew for a fact that if you peeled my skin off, I would bleed. I'd seen it happen. I had never seen a tree bleed after peeling off the bark.
But recently I have been reading a little about trees. Trees figure heavily into the text of the Bible. In the first Psalm we find this statement about people who choose to follow the right way of living...
How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3)
Trees have various qualities. Some are very tall. Some are very strong. Some are very fruitful. Some are very beautiful. And some exhibit several of these and other qualities. I was recently watching a video about one of the tallest trees in the world. The author talked about the thick bark of the tree being vital to its health. The bark protects the tree. What do you know.? My parents were right again. But one of the way the bark protects the tree is by warding off diseases. So the heart of the tree is protected by layers that are tough enough to absorb damage from attack and disease. This means that trees with thin bark are more susceptible to damage from attack and disease.
If the Godly are like trees, what is the application from the bark principle? Well, my first thought was... "We as Christians need to be tough, and develop a thick skin to protect our hearts by resisting attacks and hurt that comes from Satan and other people. We just need to develop our outer wall to become impenetrable." Makes sense, right? I mean, Jesus was tough. He was tough enough to face the cross after being betrayed and abandoned by His friends. He must have just hardened Himself to the pain and shame. Well... not so fast.
The way of Christ is not to develop a hard shell of determination and resolve so that we won't be damaged by others. It is not the stiff upper lip that will withstand the enemy. Rather... it is love. Love is our outer layer. Love is our protection. Love sustains us through attacks. I know... it sounds counter intuitive. But the apostle Paul, who was no stranger to attacks and spiritual poison told the early Christians this...
"Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love—the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful." (Colossians 3:12-15)
Look at what he says... "Above all, put on love." Love is our outer layer. After we put together the rest of the spiritual ensemble, we cover it with love. Love enable peace. Peace is stability. This peace of Christ controls our hearts. It rules over our well-being. Love is our protective layer. Love is our bark. Strength is not our bark. Faith is not our bark. Praise is not our bark. Determination is not our bark. Love is our bark. As our love grows, our bark grows. Our protection grows. Jesus endured a lot on the cross, but what took Him to it and got Him through it was His love for us.
The President Tree is a sequoyah, and one of the biggest trees in the world, standing at around 250 feet tall, and having a diameter of nearly 30 feet. It is estimated that the tree is approximately 3,200 years old. It has around 2 billion leaves. There is approximately 55,000 cubic feet of wood in its trunk and branches. Some of its branches are 8 feet in diameter. And this tree is what it is in great measure to the thickness of the bark. I guess it is a good thing I wasn't around when the tree was starting out. It may not have made it 3,200 years.
My spiritual health is very much dependent on the thickness of my bark. My bark is love. If my love is thin, I will be likely be damaged beyond repair by people in my life. If I try to exchange steadfastness for love, I am not helping myself. But if I make sure that love, Godly love is my outer shell, I can grow to whatever height God has for me and live a productive life, while resisting the disease and injury that comes from those around who want to pick away at or peel back my outer shell.
Today someone will pull away at your bark. Make sure it is made of love. Love will protect you, and if the other person is going to take something from you, at least it can be love.
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My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.