Mail-order tree

Human life requires God.

This morning, my doorbell rang, and a man handed me an apple tree. I’d ordered it from the local nursery and been surprised to learn that they could deliver it by mail.

Now it is sitting in my kitchen, all wrapped in brown paper with red cotton stitching at the top like a bag of potatoes. It isn’t very big, but that is to be expected. It’s just getting started.

After I’d brought it inside, I went out to the garden to look around. There were still other plants growing in the corner where I planned to plant the tree. I put on my gardening gloves, found my secateurs and got to work. I had to prune pretty heavily before I could get near the shrub roots that I wanted to dig up, and there was a lot more life in the garden than I expected. It was a chilly, fall day, and the advice from the nursery had been that this was the perfect time to plant my tree as the cycles of growth were finished. The spiders disagreed. From the way they were scrambling about, it was clear they weren’t yet finished with the shrubs I was removing. Then, when I got to digging, I was astonished to see caterpillars curled like sleeping cats in the soil. I took off my gardening glove, picked one up, and held it on my palm to look at more closely, but the warmth of my hand must have woken it up. It unfurled like a leaf and tried to march off on its ticklish way down my fingers, so I gently set it down elsewhere in the garden and hoped it would find a new place to sleep for the winter.

Requirements for life

Then my digging brought up bulbs in their tiny paper twists – more hidden, sleeping things in my garden. We bought the house and garden this time last year and were thrilled in the spring to watch it bloom, but it looks like there are a lot more surprises yet to grow.

It is good to remember that we live in a creation; hidden seeds are all around us. As the days get colder and the weather keeps us inside, we look inward, and there are seeds there, too. Hopes and expectations, strength that will surprise us, gentleness we’ll need down the road. These, too, have been planted by God and will grow in time, flower and fruit in us as part of the ongoing work of the Creator.

Eugene Peterson wrote of the tendencies within us and the forces outside us that continually – and relentlessly – reduce God to explanations or moral rules or feel-good emotions or politics. But God cannot be packaged or understood in small terms. The Living God is bigger and more mysterious than that, and we live and grow in God’s image.

“Insofar as we accept these reductionist explanations,” Peterson says, “our lives become bored, depressed or mean. We live stunted like acorns in a terrarium. But oak trees need soil, sun, rain and wind. Human life requires God.”


  • Katie Munnik

    Katie is an Ottawa writer living in Cardiff with her spouse and three growing children. You can also find Katie on Twitter @messy_table.

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