In my frequent winter walks, I am learning to appreciate bare trees. There is a pleasure in seeing the underlying structure of things. And with trees, each winter (here in temperate climes), God removes the leafy layer to reveal the beauty and function of his design.
It strikes me, as I gaze upward, that this pattern is profoundly important. I’ve seen it before – looking down at river systems from 10,000 feet in the air. It’s in our bodies through both veins and nerves. Lightning has it. Earlier this week, I saw it in the pattern of ice on my car window. Even some human tears have it.
What is that design? As a branch proceeds, it produces off-shoots that produce their own (albeit smaller) limbs that produce yet more tiny branches. There’s a multiplicative effect. One branch produces dozens or hundreds of twigs.
It’s no wonder we call generations of a family a tree. Same principle.
It shouldn’t surprise us, then, to find this principle of division and subdivision (wait, wasn’t it multiplication?) active in God’s interaction with us. There are many examples. Here’s one:
All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. 2 Cor. 4:15
Or think about Paul encouraging Timothy to take what Paul taught him and entrust it to those who can teach others. (2 Tim. 2:2) Blessing, though it starts with a single person, can grow and grow until it touches a multitude.
How this encourages me! As each of us lives out the grace of God, we touch lives all around us. And those people, impacted even in a small way by that interaction, can pass it on to others, until we are all a part of a vast, neural network of the Spirit’s work.
This happens even if we don’t feel we have much influence. The fact is, we don’t know the far-reaching impact of our obedience to Christ’s call.
As I study them, I see that this construct works out differently from tree to tree. Some have long, sweeping, complicated branches. Others have more subdued, simple systems.
I’m glad for that, too. Unity in design, diversity in expression. My life doesn’t have to look like Billy Graham’s did. The goal is not to have the greatest number of branches. It’s to be faithful at each intersection, each interaction. It’s to pass on that life-giving sap – or depending on your metaphor: flowing water, electrical energy, blood. The grace of God.
Our focus in on that single point of connection, not on the multiplication to come. But the Lord puts visuals all around us to remind us that the increase will follow.
It’s how he designed it.
Lord, every time we see branching design in nature, remind us of how your Kingdom spreads. And help us not to miss those points of interaction. Make us transmitters of your grace and truth at every juncture.
So, folks, I encourage you to look up on your walks this week. Notice the trees. And if you see a particularly impressive network of branches, email me a picture of it!